Lavrov's 2023 Africa Tour 🧵OPEN THREAD

The second tour since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, Lavrov is reportedly visiting South Africa, eSwatini, Botswana, Angola, Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco. As part of my Russia-Global South research, I will be… 1/
… following his moves in the continent closely.

The tour begins just after several US officials made high-level visits to the continent, Yellen and Nuland among them. The December US Africa Summit also likely played a role in conceiving the tour. 2/
This year, the second Russia-Africa summit is expected to take place in St Petersburg, too. The 2019 encounter was regarded as Russia's big move in the continent; most heads of state attended. Will the lightning strike twice? Will this new tour secure the summit's success? 3/
Some more details to consider: the (unofficial) list of countries Lavrov may visit includes a few unexpected but logical moves.

eSwatini (former Swaziland) will stand out to some, as the kingdom is known for its relative isolation and low international profile. But, … 4/
Lavrov visiting Mbabane would reflect Russia's growing clout in that country. Reportedly, there has been a Wagner ‘office’ operating there for years already. eSwatini signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia, since operationalised by training and arms sales. 5/
Then, Swazi opposition groups in exile have claimed that King Mswati III has sought assistance from Russia to suppress protests. (Russia denies this.) eSwatini has been facing unrest since 2020. 6/
Another country that stands out is Tunisia. This Mediterranean country is a close partner to the West, generally seen as neutral to larger conflicts in the broader region. The 2011 revolution brought in new Western partners interested in the country's transition to… 7/
… democracy. However, since 2019, Tunisia has witnessed backsliding and the gradual consolidation of the Kais Saied regime, including what the opposition called a coup in 2021. Western partners have left or been outright expelled (e.g. IMF). 8/
Tunisia's sudden isolation and economic troubles are likely compelling Tunis to consider alternatives. Recently Saied made clear openings to Algeria, one of Russia's main partners in the region. Some opposition journalists claim the Russian alternative is already in the plans. 9/
The other countries of the tour feature a mixture of traditional and more superficial partners. That the tour begins with BRICS partner South Africa makes sense. Anyway, will return to the thread as the tour unfolds. 10/
First tour stop: SOUTH AFRICA

In their reception of Lavrov, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) emphasised the need to a ‘peaceful resolution’ of the ‘conflict’, a line Lavrov echoed positively. 11/
Later, Lavrov pushed common lines of Russia's ‘Global South’ messaging: UN reform, G20, and the usual war propaganda.

Lavrov will meet Ramaphosa during his stay in SA, too. 12/
The opposition Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation has called for the government to stand with the free world and call for Russia's full withdrawal from Ukraine's sovereign territory. 13/
Lavrov's visit was prefaced by the news that a joint naval drill will take place in South Africa between the SA, Russian and Chinese navies in February. 14/
The day is over and the joint Russia-SA press conference took place. Nothing stood out to me from what was said, other than Lavrov repeating all the infuriating lies we've heard before. 15/
The more interesting bit is the US-Russia-SA triangle: prior to today, SA raised objections about the US Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, complaints likely echoed by Lavrov in his comments today. 16/

One item perhaps discussed today is the resumption of direct flights, reported by RIA before, which will involve the Russian company Nordwind. In 2019 it was revealed that this airline was involved in Russia's Venezuela gold smuggling operation. (Wiki) 17/
Catching up with how the first day of the tour ended. While the press conference at Dirco got some attention, Lavrov had two more high level meetings on Monday's busy schedule. These were much less publicised. 18/
After meeting with Dirco, Lavrov spoke with SA's president Ramaphosa. The official press release, TASS and Russia-friendly media reveal very little about what the discussion between the two may have addressed. A SA diplomat confirmed that Ramaphosa will go to the next… 19/
… Russia-Africa summit, so probably that?

Now, the second high level meeting was even less publicised. Monday evening Lavrov traveled to eSwatini, his first visit in the country. 20/
Second stop: eSWATINI

What was Lavrov up to in the Swasi kingdom? The usual sources give very little information. According to Izvestia, he was received by a prince… 21/
The Izvestia video shows Lavrov disembark his plane with Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia's Africa special representative, who usually follows-up on the implementation of joint agendas. Surely this was more than a symbolic gesture of a visit. 22/

Unlike in SA, the eSwatini visit did not result in a press conference, joint statements or anything of the like. Russia's MID published four items on SA and zero on eSwatini (yet). 23/
The TG channel BRIEF says that ‘according to sources’ Lavrov went to the kingdom to consolidate a ‘pro-Russian position’ among the country's elite. Plausible, given the context mentioned above. 24/
Perhaps new information will emerge in the future about Lavrov's eSwatini visit. Until then, this is all we have to go with. Today (24/01), Lavrov will travel to Angola, arriving there in the evening. Tomorrow he will meet his Angolan counterpart… 25/
… and president João Lourenço. Angola used to be a very close Russian partner, and while there still is much good will between the two, Luanda has become closer to China and has recently hinted at a rapprochement with the West. 26/
UPDATE: since writing the eSwatini section, I came across a new report on Lavrov's visit to Mbabane. According to Sputnik, Lavrov met with the country's foreign and defence ministers, as well as the ‘security prince’ and Prime Minister of the country. No King Mswati III? 27/
Reportedly the agenda included trade and cooperation in agriculture, education, tourism, mining and electricity generation. No hard confirmation about the King's participation in the next Russia-Africa summit. Interfax reports that… 28/
… a visa-free agreement for diplomatic passports was in the agenda, too.

The presence of the minister of defence makes me wonder how much Sputnik and Interfax left out. Security was almost certainly on the agenda… 29/
On 20/1, Russia's ambassador to Mozambique & eSwatini commented that Russia is ready to ‘assist eSwatini on security’. The ambassador insisted that this support will depend on the views of eSwatini's Ministry of Defence. 30/
Officially, the MoD declined the offer, but their presence at the meeting with Lavrov does not suggest that defence is off the agenda after all. Something to follow… 31/
UPDATE 2: Alas! Today Lavrov had a press conference in eSwatini, where he revealed that the two countries agreed on enhance security cooperation: 32/
‘The minister added that Moscow is ready to consider applications from Eswatini on any issues that need to be resolved to ensure the security of the country.’ 33/
Lavrov in eSwatini, video (source: Izvestia TG): 34/

Lavrov is expected to land in Angola any time now. While information surfaces, @VOANews published a few interesting comments about what to expect. Luanda has distanced itself from Russia recently, with president … 35/
… Lourenço condemning Russia's war. Some Angolan analysts expect that Lavrov will attempt to improve relations. The visit happens shortly after Lavrov's Chinese counterpart visited the country. 36/
There we are (source Russia MFA): 37/
Third stop: ANGOLA

It is 9h in Luanda and by noontime today Lavrov will have met with his counterpart and president Lourenço. He will then visit a few sites in Luanda, finishing the tour. Botswana seems to have been discreetly dropped off the programme… 38/
Joint press conference ongoing. 39/
AiF: Russia and Angola discussed atomic energy, are preparing an agreement on the matter. 40/
A follow-up meeting with Angola will take place in April, according to Lavrov. The agenda officially will focus on trade, space, scientific cooperation and energy. 41/
Catching up with Lavrov's Angola visit. He held a joint press conference with his Angolan counterpart and met with the president of the country. There were no new large initiatives announced, with really only the atomic energy agreement to show for. 42/
There were, of course, once again, talks of a new BRICS joint reserve currency. De-dollarisation has been an old topic of BRICS. Reading the press release I'd guess that Russia is counting on gathering enough countries for the upcoming BRICS... 43/
... summit, in which they will discuss de-dollarisation. Angola, despite its new Western orientation, might still be interested in reducing the dollar's dominance in its economy. It would not be the only US partner interested in such mechanisms. 44/
Unless I missed anything, there did not seem to be any evident military cooperation agenda. Angola replacing Russian defence systems does not appear in the official press releases at all. 45/
Lavrov did find time to visit the Russian embassy school. I wonder who are the men next to him in military uniform? Defence attaché, maybe?
Only now I found that Russian media is promoting the idea that the Botswana stop was cancelled because of Western pressure. No evidence is offered.

So, I am closing this thread for now. I will start a new one when the North African tour begins. 47/48
If you want to read my conclusions and takeaways from this trip, you can find them in my op-ed at @MoscowTimes. Thanks for reading! 48/48

🚨🚨🚨 SURPRISE, today Lavrov is in Eritrea!

@jeune_afrique reports that the stop in Asmara was unexpected. Lavrov met today with long-time ruler Issayas Afeworki. 49/?
Russia's invasion and an expanded bilateral agenda were reportedly discussed. There might be a joint press-conference with Lavrov and his Eritrean counterpart later today. 50/?
Eritrea was the only African country voting against the March 2022 resolution condemning Russia's invasion.

It is not surprising that there has been no mention (so far) of Russia's plans for a Red Sea naval installation. 51/?,4283
Correction: Lavrov was in Eritrea yesterday. Sorry!

An important detail: aside from the usual rhetoric of partnership, Lavrov spoke twice about Eritrea's port city of Massaua. 👀 Red Sea dreams die hard. 52/

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Interesting thread