Russia to establish embassies in Sierra Leone, Niger and South Sudan

By bne IntelliNews May 24, 2024

Russia is taking significant steps to bolster its diplomatic footprint in Africa, with plans underway to establish full-fledged diplomatic missions in Sierra Leone, Niger, and South Sudan. 

This initiative, announced by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with foreign diplomats on 'Africa Day', is part of Moscow's recent drive to enhance its political and economic ties across the continent, particularly as its relationship with the West remains strained following the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s focus on Africa has also come as a response to the increasing influence of China over the continent, and mirrors attempts by the United States and the EU to improve diplomatic relations.

Lavrov highlighted the dynamic development of inter-parliamentary and inter-party relations between Russia and African nations, emphasising the strategic importance of these partnerships. 

This move follows an April announcement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which indicated that Moscow was exploring the possibility of opening a number of new embassies. Russia has already announced decisions to establish embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea, alongside general consulates in various other Asian and African countries.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Washington-based think tank, notes that Russia has arguably expanded its influence in the continent in recent years more than any other external actor.

"These engagements extend from deepening ties in North Africa, expanding its reach in the Central African Republic and the Sahel, and rekindling Cold War ties in southern Africa," the think tank writes on its website.

"Russia’s approach is distinctive among external actors in that Moscow typically relies on irregular (and frequently extralegal) means to expand its influence—deployment of mercenaries, disinformation, election interference, support for coups, and arms for resources deals, among others.

"This low-cost, high-influence strategy seeks to advance a very different world order than the rules-based, democratic political systems to which most Africans aspire."

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