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Russia’s interest in South Sudan

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On January 27-29, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of South Sudan, Awut Deng Acuil, made an official working visit to Moscow where she held diplomatic talks focused on strengthening economic cooperation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

She is a South Sudanese politician and the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation since August 2019. For the first time, Awut Deng Acuil was visiting Moscow – this made it more meaningful and significant to discuss ways of moving forward with relations and comprehensive development of cooperation with the Russian Federation. Russia and South Sudan already signed a Memorandum of Consultations between both Foreign Ministries last October 2019 in Sochi, during the first Russia-Africa Summit.

“There is potential for expanding trade and economic cooperation, including in such areas as energy, construction, development of automobile, railway and pipeline infrastructure, and agriculture. One of the promising areas of bilateral cooperation is the development of the fuel and energy complex in South Sudan. A number of projects with Russian participation are already being implemented,” according to the media report released before the official talks held January 28.

“We have discussed the prospects of bilateral cooperation, first of all, with an emphasis on the development of its economic cooperation. We informed our colleagues about the Russian companies working in the oil and gas, infrastructure, railway and transport sectors that are ready to discuss possible mutually beneficial projects with our South Sudanese partners,” Lavrov said at the media briefing after their closed diplomatic talks.

Back in 2016, Russia and South Sudan also signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Military Technical Cooperation, which is still effective. Both have agreed to use this sphere of cooperation in order to strengthen security and military capability of South Sudan, only after the United Nations Security Council lifts finally its restrictions on weapons trade with that country.

South Sudan, a landlocked country located in the east-central Africa, is making efforts for further recognition and climb onto a global stage. Africa gaining its independence in July 2011, to become the 55th African state, it has suffered ethnic violence and endured civil war since 2013.

The United States supported the 2011 referendum on South Sudan’s independence. The New York Times reported that “South Sudan is in many ways an American creation, carved out of war-torn Sudan in a referendum largely orchestrated by the United States, its fragile institutions nurtured with billions of dollars in American aid.”

The U.S. government’s long-standing sanctions against Sudan were officially removed from applicability to newly independent South Sudan in December 2011, and senior South Sudanese officials participated in a high-level international engagement conference in Washington, D.C., to help connect foreign investors with the RSS and South Sudanese private sector representatives

South Sudan has a population of 12 million, and a predominantly rural, subsistence economy. It, however, exports timber to the international market. The region contains many natural resources, but as in many other developing countries, the economy is heavily dependent on agriculture.

It has the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, after South Sudan became an independent nation in July 2011, southern and northern negotiators were not immediately able to reach an agreement on how to split the revenue from these southern oilfields.

It is estimated that South Sudan has around four times the oil deposits of Sudan. The oil revenues, according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), were split equally for the duration of the agreement period. Since South Sudan relies on pipelines, refineries, and Port Sudan‘s facilities in Red Sea state in Sudan, the agreement stated that the government of Sudan in Khartoum would receive a 50% share of all oil revenues.

South Sudan is attracting many foreign players. But currently, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is a major investor in South Sudan’s oil sector. It is under pressure to diversify away from oil as oil reserves will likely halve by 2020 if no new finds are made, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Abraham Telar Kuc, a postgraduate researcher on Diplomacy and International Relations at the Institute of Peace, Development and Security Studies, University of Juba, and currently with South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation, suggests South Sudan officials take advantage of the strategic geo-political location, especially use its membership of different international and regional political cooperation and economic integration blocs, to improve the economy.

More recently, economic partnership, in general, is gaining momentum in direct foreign investments through bilateral and multilateral relations. India is investing limitedly in South Sudan oil sector through India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission. In addition, Indian companies are investing in the ICT, pharmaceuticals and medical services, finance and banking, housing and construction sectors. India companies such as Reliance Industries, Tata Group, Bajaj Group, Bharti Airtel Communications and others are making forays into the economy, according to Abraham Telar Kuc.

Abraham told Modern Diplomacy: “Soviet Union offered enormous support for liberation and pro-independence movements including those in South Sudan. We are glad that Russians are waking up for investments and existing economic opportunities in Africa, returning to the African arena and moving into new investment opportunities there. As influential government officials and businesspeople have expressed interest, it’s necessary to make sure that they get access to South Sudan.”

Russia and Africa have a long history relationship based on mutual trust, and are lined-up on the principles of equality and mutual respect. In recent years, strategic communications have intensified and are developing in various directions. Moscow has repeatedly indicated that it supports the principle “African solutions to African problems” formulated by the African countries.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Ukraine Prioritizes Africa’s Food Security, Opens Diplomatic Offices in Africa

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Wheat harvest near the Krasne village, Ukraine. © FAO/Anatolii Stepanov

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, has agreed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Vincent Biruta, to establish diplomatic office in Kigali, capital of Rwanda. An objective has been set by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry to broaden Ukraine’s presence in Africa.

“Following our thorough analysis, we planned to set up new embassies in African countries, one of which we will open in Rwanda. The Rwandan side has already given its official agreement to the creation of a Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Kigali,” Ukrainian media quoted Kuleba as saying in a statement circulated by the Foreign Ministry’s press service.

“Ukraine will step up its foreign policy on Africa aimed at a Ukrainian-African renaissance. This year, we intend to open new embassies in different parts of Africa and plan to hold the first Ukraine-Africa summit,” the minister said.

According to our research, Ukraine currently has about 10 embassies on the continent in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. Sources indicate that Russia has a wider footprint in Africa with about 44 embassies and consulates. 

On Russia-Ukraine crisis, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba point-blank emphasized that Kiev “is open to discuss any peace initiatives, if they honor two principles: neither include territorial concessions, nor lead to a frozen conflict instead of peace. At the same time, “it is the Ukrainian peace plan that should be a foundation of any peace efforts,” the minister said.

The parties also signed a memorandum on political consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Ukraine and Rwanda, and further agreed to hold the two countries’ business forum soon. Kuleba invited Biruta to visit Ukraine.

He emphasized that Kiev “is open to discuss any peace initiatives, if they honor two principles: neither include territorial concessions, nor lead to a frozen conflict instead of peace. At the same time, “it is the Ukrainian peace plan that should be a foundation of any peace efforts. 

According to our research sources, a peace initiative put forward by six African countries including Uganda, South Africa, Congo, Senegal, Zambia and Egypt will be discussed at the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, which is slated to take place late July 2023. 

Beijing has already leveraged with Russia to end the war in Ukraine. China’s peacemaking efforts were unsuccessful, especially the necessity to respect the principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

African countries are not going to sacrifice their ties to Russia, Kenyan Ambassador Benson Ogutu told the local Russian Izvestia newspaper, noting that his country for instance maintains good relations with both Russia and the West, as well as the East and North. It is precisely this neutral position that allows African countries to act as mediators in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and gives promise to their efforts at fostering reconciliation.

At their meeting, the foreign ministers discussed Ukraine’s “peace formula”, food security in Africa, Ukrainian grain exports as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and the Grain from Ukraine humanitarian program. Food security in Africa became a separate topic of the meeting, the press service for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said. Kuleba noted that thanks to the operation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative 123 ships carrying 3.3 million tonnes of agricultural products have been exported to African countries as of early May.

The Ukrainian minister said that under the Grain from Ukraine humanitarian program the Ukrainian government sent six ships carrying 170,000 tonnes of wheat to Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen between December 2022 and March 2023. Ethiopia received 90,000 tonnes, Kenya 25,000 tonnes, Somalia 25,000 tonnes, Yemen 30,000 tonnes. Ships with agricultural products are planned to be sent to other countries in the near future.

In practical terms of working with Africa, Ukraine is ready to train African specialists, expresses readiness to invest in diverse employment-generating spheres and forge cooperation in concrete economic sectors across the continent. Kuleba strongly called for cooperation rather than confrontation, clearly underscored the system of approach and as the basis for emerging multipolar world. 

Despite the geographical distance, Kuleba explained that Ukraine and Africa share deep historical ties and have always shared and supported the aspirations of African nations towards independence, unity, and progress. In his view, especially at this new stage, “we want to develop a new quality of partnership based on three mutual principles: mutual respect, mutual interests, and mutual benefits.”

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the second-largest in the region and shares borders with Russia. The Ukrainian republic is heavily damaged by the current war, and it requires significant efforts to recover. It has dramatically strengthened its ties with the United States. Ukraine considers Euro-Atlantic integration its primary foreign policy objective, but in practice it has always balanced its relationship with the European Union.

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Africa Day 2023: Remembering the Past and Looking for a Better Future

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The phenomenon of colonialism created the Africa Day 60years ago. And Africans always remember May 25th, a momentous occasion observed with receipt of friendly messages from across the world. While its primary continental goals include ‘sustainable peace and development’, and ‘unity in diversity’, these still remain integral challenges. Despite recognising the significance of some achievements during the past 60 years, Africa extends far beyond.

The African Union itself said in an official statement posted its the website that “celebration of the 60th anniversary is an opportunity to recognize the role and contribution of the founders of the continental organization and many other Africans on the continent and in the diaspora who have contributed greatly to the political liberation of the continent, and equally, to the socio-economic emancipation of Africa.”

Further, it is an opportunity to share the information, knowledge and best practices of the past and to encourage each other to take on the vision of the African Union, as well as to drive the realization of the “Africa We Want” under Agenda 2063. It is also an opportune moment for the African Union to reflect on the spirit of pan-Africanism, which connects the past to the present and to the continent’s aspirations for the future. 

Across the world, Africa is considered as a burgeoning economic powerhouse, it holds immense potential and deserves to be acknowledged for the remarkable strides it has made. In fact, Africa’s economic growth has been nothing short of remarkable. With a burgeoning middle class, expanding industries, and a rising wave of entrepreneurship, the continent is experiencing an economic transformation that cannot be ignored. Gone are the days when Africa was seen solely as a land of challenges; it is now a land of extraordinary opportunities.

According to the popular belief, Africa’s vast natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals and agricultural produce, are driving global industries to invent a new future. The continent’s potential for renewable energy, particularly solar and wind power, is unrivalled. As the world increasingly shifts towards sustainable solutions, Africa stands at the forefront, poised to become a leader in the clean energy revolution, even while suffering the climate consequences caused almost entirely by the so-called developed countries.

However, it would be remiss to discuss Africa’s economic growth without addressing the challenges that persist. Poverty, inequality, and lack of infrastructure continue to hinder progress. It is our collective responsibility to work towards addressing these issues, ensuring that the benefits of Africa’s economic growth are inclusive and sustainable.

The beauty of Africa lies not only in its economic potential but also in its vibrant and diverse cultures. From the pulsating rhythms of Afrobeat music to the captivating tales woven into African literature, the continent’s cultural contributions enrich the global community. Africa’s arts, fashion, and cuisine resonate across borders, fostering cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

Despite the growing hatred for the United States and Europe, the condemnation for colonial policies and blamed for under-development in Africa, the leaders have recieved congratulatory messages. Africa’s “non-Western friends” such as China and Russia also sent goodwill messages.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his message for example, described Africa Day, a holiday that has become a symbol of the victory of the peoples of your continent over colonialism, their striving for freedom, peace and prosperity.

“This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity. This representative international structure has played an important role in the development of multilateral dialogue and cooperation for several decades. Today, its good traditions are continued by the African Union, within which all states of the continent actively cooperate,” he noted. 

“Thanks to their joint efforts, it was possible to establish mechanisms for collective response to local crises, to launch regional integration processes in various formats. This undoubtedly contributes to the social and economic development of Africa and the enhancement of its role in international affairs,” he added.

Russia has always attached particular importance to strengthening friendly relations with African partners. The holding of the first-ever Russia-Africa summit in 2019 served to intensify ties in many areas. The second Russia-Africa summit, which to be held in St. Petersburg in July, would make it possible to define new tasks for expanding our country’s constructive cooperation with African partners in the political, trade, economic, scientific, technical, humanitarian and other fields. Putin said in conclusion.

Similarly, President Xi Jinping sent a message to the African Union (AU), extending warm congratulations to African countries and the African people. In the message, he pointed out that the AU has united and led African countries to actively respond to global challenges and speed up the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area, and played an important role in mediating hotspot issues in Africa, which has boosted Africa’s international status and influence. 

He, however, expressed his sincere wishes that African countries and people will continue to achieve greater success on their path of development and revitalization. He emphasized that China-Africa relations maintained sound momentum of development, and China-Africa cooperation has moved ahead to be all-round, multi-tiered and high-quality, taking the lead in international cooperation with Africa. 

President Xi expressed his readiness to work with leaders of African countries to further strengthen friendly cooperation between China and Africa, enhance coordination and collaboration on international and regional affairs, and work for the building of a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.

Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said “We mark Africa Day at a time when cooperation and solidarity to advance the continent’s future is more needed than ever.” Africa’s dynamism is unstoppable; its potential is breathtaking, from the vibrancy of its huge number of young people to the possibilities of free trade. The African Union has designated 2023 the year of the African Continental Free Trade Area. When fully established, the world’s largest single market could lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035, driving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.

António Guterres looks forward to African governments continuing to seize the opportunities presented by the continent’s natural, human, and entrepreneurial richness, by working to increase private investment and raise resources at home.

He urges the international community to stand with Africa.  Currently, historic and economic injustices hamper its progress. Multiple crises – from COVID to climate and conflict – continue to cause great suffering across the continent. African countries are under-represented in global governance institutions, from the Security Council to the Bretton Woods System, and denied the debt relief and concessional funding they need.

António Guterres noted further that Africa deserves peace, justice and international solidarity. The continent should be represented at the highest level of the international financial system. Multilateral Development Banks should transform their business models and leverage funds to attract massive private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries. Developed countries should provide the support they have promised for action on climate change, and go further. And we must support efforts to silence the guns across the continent.

The United Nations will continue to be a proud partner in advancing peace, sustainable development and human rights for the people of Africa. With international cooperation and solidarity, this can be Africa’s century. 

Exactly 60 years ago, on this day in 1963, the founding of the Organization of African Unity was announced, which marked the beginning of the progressive movement of the continent along the path of political and economic integration. Today, the successor to its cause is the African Union, whose task is to develop collective approaches to the problems of maintaining peace and security, strengthening democratic processes, developing human potential, and ensuring socio-economic growth.

In the context of a multipolar geopolitical order, African leaders and the African Union should strengthen their positions regarding external partnerships. If not, the continent risks being left behind and used as a pawn in an increasingly divided global order. The African Union (AU), an organization uniting 55 African states, has to consistently place focus on its empowerment, support its status and in practical tems, to remain overwhelmingly committed to the development Agenda 2063. 

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Africa needs peace and stability to develop, says AU Chairperson Assoumani

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President Azali Assoumani addressing parliamentarians at the opening session.

President of the Union of Comoros and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), President Azali Assoumani has reiterated, at the opening of the ordinary session of the Sixth Parliament held in Midrand, South Africa, under the AU theme for 2023, “Accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)” that for Africa to develop, it need relative peace and stability.

That it was necessary with determination to work in favor of the defense of the interests of the African peoples as the continental legislators seek to work in close collaboration with African governments and other AU institutions, including the Pan-African Parliament, for more peace and progress in continent. 

He, however, encouraged African legislators to help establish appropriate conditions to promote socio-economic development in the continent. “Our continent has many natural resources with the potential to become one of the largest markets in the world. With the appropriate conditions, we can promote socio-economic development for a sustainable economy. We have succeeded to set up the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and it has become our continental priority,” he underlined.

Assoumani also underscored the fact that for Africa to develop and grow, peace and stability must prevail. “It is clear that in addition to terrorist threats, unconstitutional changes of government, the war in Sudan has worsened the situation.  Not only does this war create chaos in this country, but it risks destabilising an already fragile region, with all the consequences this may have on the people,” he explained.

On this aspect, it is necessary to unite efforts and agree on the actions to be implemented, to convince the warring parties to reach a ceasefire in order to have negotiations, he said, and encouraged Africans to work together in order to achieve a common desire for peace, stability and development.

On his part, Pan-African Parliament President, Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira noted that parliament has, in the past eleven months, made significant strides in the fulfilment of its mandate. He further emphasised on the need for the AU to reconnect with the African citizenry. “Linking to grassroots in Africa is even more imperative for the pan-African parliament which was undoubtedly established with this very objective in mind. A parliament is not a parliament if it is remote and inaccessible to the people. A parliament is not a parliament if its agenda does not respond to the people’s hopes, ideals and aspirations,” said Charumbira.

He reported that this was one of the major outcomes of the strategic reorientation workshop that was convened last year. The workshop refocused the pan-African parliament’s attention on impactful deliverables that affect citizens. The agreement was that the continental parliament ought to be for the greater good of the people.

Addressing the plenary session, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Hon. Candith Mashego-Dhlamini disclosed that her government is encouraged by the deliberations of the parliament on the implementation of the AfCFTA and its specific focus on the significant role that the African parliamentarians could play in its acceleration.

“You may recall that during the Summit held on 19 – 20 February this year, the Heads of State adopted three protocols to the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, namely, on competition policy, investment as well as on intellectual property rights. We look up to the parliamentarians to facilitate the ratification of these protocols so that they may be integrated into national legislation, thus providing a legal basis to underpin an effective single market for Africa, and meaningful market access across the AfCFTA for the private sector, especially the SMMEs led by women and young entrepreneurs,” strongly noted Mashego-Dhlamini.

Mandated with facilitating the implementation of policies, objectives, and programmes of the AU, and overseeing their execution by the various organs of the Union, the parliamentarian session focused on the unbundling of the AfCFTA agreement and the strategies put by the legislative arm of the African Union to accelerate the landmark accord. Over 250 African parliamentarians convened for the session to devise ways to fast-track the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in line with the African Union (AU) theme for 2023. 

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