Russian, Western envoys converge on Sudan, offering divergent visions for Africa

Russian, Western envoys converge on Sudan, offering divergent visions for Africa

Sudanese capital of Khartoum has seen a flurry of high-level diplomatic activity, with visits of Russia’s top diplomat and envoys from the United States and Europe, in what has been dubbed as “a new scramble for Africa” by the Kremlin and its Western opponents

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Khartoum (8-9 February) — his second Africa tour this year — comes as an increasingly isolated Moscow has sought to strengthen partnerships on the continent. Sudan is one of several African nations, including the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali, where Moscow has bolstered ties in recent years, in part through the Kremlin-backed mercenary firm the Wagner Group.

In Khartoum, Lavrov held talks with army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who in October 2021 led a military coup that derailed Sudan’s transition to civilian rule and triggered cuts to crucial Western aid. Russia’s top envoy pledged support for Sudan’s call to have the long-standing UN sanctions on the African nation lifted and also hailed Sudanese efforts “to attract Russian investments”.

Lavrov’s two Africa tours this year, which included visits to Angola, Eritrea, Eswatini, Mali, Mauritania, South Africa and Sudan, come against the backdrop of an increased competition in Africa against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Symbolically coinciding with Lavrov’s visit, special envoys from the European Union, Britain, France, Germany, Norway, and the United States arrived in Khartoum also on Wednesday and met with Sudanese political leaders to show support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led government. But they agreed to resume financial support to Sudan only once a civilian-led transitional government is formed. “It’s our strong hope that the parties will make a quick formation of a civilian led-government that is able to lead Sudan out of its current political, economic crises,” said, Peter Lord, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, after the meeting.

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