Germany issued an apology on Thursday, January 26 for using a leopard emoji in a tweet that referred to the trip that the Russian Foreign Minister was taking through Africa. A number of users on the platform found that particular post to be offensive, and a spokeswoman for the leader of the African Union, Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, drew attention to it. When Russia’s top diplomat was on a tour of Africa, the German foreign ministry tweeted that he wasn’t there looking for leopards but rather using the trip to try and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This was an attempt to poke fun at Russia’s top diplomat while he was on his trip, and it was successful to some extent.
The tweet, along with the leopard emoji that was used on the official account of the foreign ministry, appears to have been an attempt to poke fun at Germany’s decision to send some of its highly advanced Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to assist Ukraine’s military in its struggle against Russian forces. A representative of the African Union has questioned the use of emoji, saying that it could be seen as showing the continent as just being full of wild animals again.
Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for African Union Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, sent a tweet in response to the account of the German government, asking whether or not Africa, its people, and its wildlife were “simply a joke to you?” In a follow-up tweet, Kalondo explained that “foreign policy is not a joke” and that it “should not be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire continent with colonial tropes.”
The German foreign ministry issued an apology and stated that the tweet was not intended to cause offense but rather “to point out the lies that Russia uses to legitimize its imperialist campaign of aggression against Ukraine.”
This week, Lavrov traveled to South Africa, Eswatini, Angola, and Eritrea. During his travels, he reiterated his assertions that the United States and its Western allies are using Ukraine as a tool in a “hybrid war” against Russia.
The relationship between Moscow and a great number of African nations goes back through history. During the vote at the United Nations on whether or not to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, South Africa was one of several countries that chose to abstain. Along with Russia, Belarus, North Korea, and Syria, Eritrea cast a vote of no confidence in the resolution.