Putin invites Kiir to Africa-Russia summit

Putin invites Kiir to Africa-Russia summit
The Russian non-residence ambassador to South Sudan, Vladlan Semivolos (left) in a discussion with President Salva Kiir at the State House in Juba on Wednesday. [Photo: PPU]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited President Salva Kiir to attend the second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg in July this year.

The invitation was delivered by the Russian non-residence ambassador to South Sudan, Vladlan Semivolos, who met President Kiir at his office in Juba on Wednesday. A statement from the office of the president shared on its Facebook page revealed that the two leaders engaged in a discussion on how to boost bilateral relations between Juba and Moscow.

“Russian Ambassador to South Sudan, Vladlan Semivolos, noted relations between the two countries have been developing to the benefit of both countries. The cooperation ties cover a wide range of areas, including political dialogue, education, economics, and humanitarian sectors,” he noted.

According to Semivolos, Russia will be providing educational opportunities to the South Sudanese as a way of ensuring a sustained positive relationship.

“That cooperation in the education sector is stronger as the Russian government is increasing government scholarships for South Sudanese to study at top Russian universities.”

It remains unclear, however, whether President Kiir will be able to honour the visit from his Russian counterpart, given his sparing travels outside the country.

For instance, in December 2022, Kiir skipped the US-Africa summit due to what his office termed “crucial engagements at the time that he had traveled to launch the Juba-Terekeka- Rumbek highway.

Russia has been stepping up its influence on the continent to match that of other foreign governments like China, USA and France.

In his article titled “Russia, France compete for influence in Africa,”  published by Anadolu Agency early this year, Huriye Yildirim Cinar argues that USA lost grip of the continent during the Donald Trump administration when the Republican leader embraced the Asia-Pacific at the same time that Paris influence waned. This enabled Russia to enter the continent.

He states, “These developments gave an advantage to Russia, which was pushed into isolation in the international arena due to its aggressive policies and needed new cooperation to gain power.”

He adds that Russia’s military prowess has acted as a major allure for the African countries, whose appetite for ramping up security is overwhelming.

“Providing assistance for political and military consultancy in addition to military support through the Wagner Group, Russians managed to gain influence in a short time on the continent.”

However, Moscow still faces resistance from Kyiv—which tries to marshal allies for her course in war with Russia—and France.

“Ukraine and France are working to limit Russia’s influence on the continent.” “On the other hand, the Joe Biden administration in the US began to take steps for an effective return to Africa,” the author notes.

However, since the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russia has come under global criticism for declaring war on Kyiv. Several countries in Europe, the United States, Asia, and some African countries have condemned Russia for invading Ukraine.

-Additional reportage by Japheth Ogila