Dar es Salaam. The United States permanent representative to the United Nations, Ms Linda Thomas Greenfield, has cautioned African countries from engaging with sanctioned countries such as Russia.
Her remarks come just days after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said his country would continue trading with Russia, noting that the East African nation would not be drawn into making decisions against Moscow based on its ongoing military operation in Ukraine.
Mr Museveni made the remarks at a joint press briefing with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at State House in Entebbe.
Mr Lavrov who visited Uganda, Egypt and the Republic of Congo last week in a tour that aimed at strengthening Moscow’s ties with Africa.
“We want to trade with Russia. We want to trade with all countries of the world. We don’t believe in being enemies of somebody’s enemies,” Mr Museveni said.
“Whenever issues come up and some people want us to take positions against Russia we say, but these people have been with us for the last 100 years. How can we be automatically against them?” he queried. Uganda, along with Tanzania, were some of the countries that voted to abstain during the UN General Assembly’s emergency session convened in May to call for a withdrawal of the Russian military from Ukraine.
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And, speaking in an exclusive virtual interview with The Citizen, Ms Thomas-Greenfield said the US sanctions on Russia were intended to discourage Russia from continuing its aggression in Ukraine.
The US representative to the United Nations is on a trip to Africa where she is set to visit Ghana, Uganda and Cape Verde.
“But, I would caution that countries should not engage with countries that have been sanctioned by the United States,” she said.
“The purpose of my visit is not to encourage countries to make enemies; instead, it is to reaffirm our friendship with the people of Africa in all of these countries and to address the abiding concerns that they have about food insecurity and how we can support their efforts to deal with this very serious issue.”
She added: “So, with President Museveni, again, we have a full agenda of issues to discuss how we can improve our partners, but also address some of our concerns about the situation on the ground both in the region and further afield.”
She further said that it was not the duty of the US to make choices for African countries in whatever manner they choose.
“We’re not asking Africans to make any choices between the US and Russia – for me, that choice would be simple – to look at the long, abiding relationship that we’ve had with the continent, the US investments on the continent of Africa, and for African countries not to buy into Russia’s disinformation and misinformation campaign to indicate that somehow this is a war between the US and Russia,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield on August 2 ahead of her trip.
She added: “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.
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.