The Brookings Institution, a US think tank, is reporting that Russia’s narratives about its invasion of Ukraine are lingering in Africa. The report says that Russia’s objectives are not only to justify its invasion of Ukraine but to sway African countries to support Russia’s actions and secure Russia’s influence over the region. According to the Brookings report:
June 27, 2022 The information spaces in Africa and other regions of the Global South like India and China have been heavily targeted by Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns in recent months and years. In the case of Africa at this moment, Russia’s objectives are not only to justify its invasion of Ukraine, but to sway African countries to support Russia’s actions and secure Russia’s influence over the region, especially as the country becomes increasingly isolated from the United States and Europe. […] Sentiments in Africa concerning the crisis vary dramatically in the tweets. While many Africans stood (and continue to stand) in solidarity with Ukraine, a significant portion of the relevant discussions trending online initially focused on African students fleeing Ukraine and the racism they faced. In the first two weeks of the war (through March 9), the most-tweeted Russian narrative (over 178,000 tweets) concerning the war claim that all Ukrainians and Europeans—but not Russians—are racist. […] Over 105,000 tweets employ “whataboutism,” where users avert the conversation to other topics, disregard the crisis, reject criticism of Russia’s actions and political influence, or proclaim hypocrisy.
Read the full report here.
The report notes that state-affiliated Russia Today (RT) was among the most retweeted platforms for tweets with ‘whataboutism” and anti-West rhetoric and that Russian government accounts also play prominent roles in these discussions. The Global Influence Operations Report has extensively reported on Russia’s use of its embassies and consulates worldwide to spread disinformation about the Ukraine war on social media channels. We have also reported that Russia’s model of disinformation to gain political influence in Africa is being replicated by other actors across the continent and that Russian social media influence operations are highly successful in many parts of the Global South where antipathy for the West is deep and sympathy for Russia real.