Africa Prefers Influential Leaders – OpEd


South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on an official working visit to Moscow on September 28 said during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Africa preferred very influential leaders. Both discussed the prospects for relations between the two countries in various fields, including security and economic cooperation. 

“I am here today as an opening for our long walk into the future. And we will work together, as the world dictates, nobody can stand alone, and I cannot do it alone. We are the youngest nation in the world, and we need the most influential friends. You are one of them. We do not see any alternative besides you,” Salva Kiir said at the talks.

That was the second time the South Sudanese president has visited Russia. Kiir attended the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi in 2019. He sent a delegation to the second summit in St. Petersburg late July 2023. Russia’s invitation to Salva Kiir came as global powers reach out to African nations for support relating to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In his introductory speech, Putin underlined the rapidly developing relations between Russia and South Sudan, and promised to provide additional support for ensuring security and for expanding economic cooperation. Putin, at first, noted that Russia was one of the first countries to recognise the sovereignty and independence of South Sudan.

“Of course, we are aware that further development is associated with ensuring security, with the settlement of all those problems and difficulties that you inherited from the old times. So, we will do everything to support you in this area as well,” Putin said.

South Sudan will soon have its own refinery, the construction of a refinery in close coordination with Russian companies. Currently, Russia’s Safinat Group is working on an oil refinery there. In addition, South Sudan will enormously benefit from the expected development of Russian trade and economic ties to the country and the possibly penetrating to the region.

Putin also discussed humanitarian cooperation. “People from your nation are being trained in educational institutions of our country. We intend to expand this collaboration. I know that there is similar interaction with the regions of the Russian Federation, including Tatarstan. I hope that this area of activity will only develop,” he said.

South Sudan is under pressure from the United States and other allies to more quickly implement a peace deal signed in 2018 to end a five-year civil war and prepare for the election. For its part, South Sudan wants arms embargoes removed. Russia, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, could help.

Landlocked South Sudan, with estimated population of 11.5 million, is located in the northeast and central Africa. It is now a sovereign, independent state following its secession from Sudan on July 9, 2011. 

Like most of the conflict-wrapped African states, South Sudan has deepening economic crisis and rising internal social and political discontent after it separated from Sudan. It shares borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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