Biden’s UN envoy in Africa tour to counter Russia

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By JULIUS BARIGABA

Washington’s top UN envoy, Ms Linda Thomas-Greenfield, arrived in Africa on Tuesday in what is seen as a trip to undo the gains made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the continent.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield, President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the UN, is on a four-day trip, which will see her visit Uganda, where she will discuss with President Yoweri Museveni, before flying to Ghana and Cape Verde.

A former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, her trip comes a week after Russia’s top diplomat Mr Lavrov concluded a tour of four African countries – Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt and the Congo Republic, where he met leaders and rallied the continent to become Moscow allies.

“We are not asking African countries to make any choices between the United States and Russia,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield in an online media briefing on August 2 ahead of her trip, explaining that the continent is buying Moscow’s rhetoric about the war in Ukraine.

“We want African countries not to buy into Russia’s disinformation and misinformation campaign to indicate that somehow this is a war between the United States and Russia. Let’s be clear. Russia attacked Ukraine. Russia started this war,” she said, adding that the current global food crisis that has hit the African continent hardest was triggered by the invasion in February this year.

Other shocks such as high energy prices, climate change, severe droughts and floods, Covid-19 and increasing conflicts have complicated the global supply chain systems and fuelled food shortages, pushing millions of people to the brink.

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“Putin’s illegal and immoral war of aggression in Ukraine has added to this crisis, especially some countries in Africa once got up to 75 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine,” she said.

The envoy has spent much of her 40-year diplomatic career in Africa, where she has faced the issues that affect the continent. But on this occasion, countering Russia’s rhetoric and mitigating the food crisis are top of her agenda when she meets the leaders of the three countries.

In a subtle message to the West, while hosting Mr Lavrov, President Museveni said last week that Russia had stood with Africa for the last 100 years and that African countries can only condemn Moscow when it makes mistakes.

“How can we be against somebody who has never harmed us?” Mr Museveni asked. “If Russia makes mistakes, we tell them,” he added.

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