Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov five-day tour of his four-nation expedition – covering Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of the Congo – promptly reminded the world that the regime he represents simply cannot tell the truth. Throughout his visit, none of the African political leaders or civil servants he came face to face with even attempted to challenge Lavrov’s lies. Sadly, Africa’s seemingly enthusiastic acceptance of Russia’s “alternative truths” during this visit was not in any way surprising.
Africa became one of the main targets of Russia’s post-Cold War offensive on the truth. Between 2019 and 2022, for example, Twitter and Facebook removed Russian disinformation networks that targeted Madagascar, the Central African Republic (CAR), Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan, Libya, South Africa, Nigeria, the Gambia and Zimbabwe.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian efforts to gain favour in Africa through false narratives went on overdrive.
In March, for example, a photograph supposedly showing a young Putin training Mozambican freedom fighters in a Tanzanian military camp in 1973 conveniently emerged on African social media and generated undeserved praise and excitement. The image was also posted on Twitter by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son. Of course, the photo is not really from the 1970s, and the man purported to be Putin is not the Russian leader.