By Enyichukwu Enemanna
The US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has said African nations are free to buy grain from Russia but could face consequences if they trade in US-sanctioned commodities, including oil.
“Countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat,” Thomas-Greenfield said on Thursday but added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions.”
“We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield spoke in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, after a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, a US ally who has not criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has expressed sympathy with Moscow.
Uganda is the US official’s first stop on an African tour that will include visits to Ghana and Cape Verde. Her trip comes a week after the Africa visit of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who dismissed charges that his country’s invasion of Ukraine is solely responsible for a dangerous food crisis in countries ranging from Somalia to South Sudan.
Lavrov instead blamed food shortages in the market on “the absolutely inadequate reaction of the West, which announced sanctions” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil, with fighting in the Black Sea region, known as the “breadbasket of the world,” pushing up food prices, threatening political stability in developing nations and leading countries to ban some food exports.
Thomas-Greenfield insisted that sanctions imposed by Washington are not to blame for rising food prices in Africa and elsewhere.
She said the US seeks to strengthen existing partnerships in African countries such as Uganda and spoke of Museveni, an authoritarian who has held power for 36 years, as a regional leader with whom the US has “mutual interests.”