Germany’s social media ridicule of visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Africa seemed to backfire on Wednesday after the continental bloc, the African Union, was incensed by the use of ‘animal’ emoji.
Germany, an ally of Ukraine, has been lambasting Russia since it invaded Ukraine last year and often criticises comments by Moscow’s leaders seeking influence abroad or defending the war.
This week, as Mr Lavrov touched down in Africa, the German Foreign ministry sought to spoil his party on his visits to South Africa, Eswatini, Botswana and Angola this week.
“The Russian Foreign Minister #Lavrov is in Africa, not to see (a leopard), but to bluntly claim that Ukraine’s partners “want to destroy everything Russian.” Here is a thread with all his “evidence,” said the Tweet on Tuesday which then added that there was “none.”
Hi @GermanyDiplo.Your boss @ABaerbock visited the @_AfricanUnion based in one of the more than 20 African countries that Germany enjoys reciprocal diplomatic relations with. Did she come to see animals? Or is the Continent of Africa, its people & wildlife just a joke to you? https://t.co/RkzWsBbBoH
— Ebba Kalondo (@EbbaKalondo) January 25, 2023
AU Commission angry
But this tweet angered the African Union Commission.
Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki, termed the use of the leopard emoji as part of archaic imageries she argued have been used to illustrate Africa.
“Foreign policy is not a joke nor should it be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire continent with colonial tropes on any issue,” she said.
The German Foreign ministry apologised and tried to clarify the leopard imagery, indicating there had been no offence but a reference to ‘German-made leopard tanks.’
“We wanted to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Another German diplomat based in South Africa weighed in, saying the African Union official had misunderstood the reference as it had been made tongue-in-cheek, to which the official rejected as an ugly joke.
The tweet came just after the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had toured the African Union ahead of the launch of what Germany has called the ‘Africa Strategy’.
The Strategy, to be launched on Friday, is meant to “shape the future with Africa” and focuses on areas of development that benefit both sides, rather than enhancing dependency, according to the briefing.
But as to whether the launch would go on smoothly, the German diplomats may have to do renewed appeasing to ensure they do not come out as distrustful.