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Berlin apologizes after African Union accuses it of insult

The German Foreign Office made a botched joke about Russia’s foreign minister visiting the continent “not to see leopards”

Germany’s attempt to mock the trip of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Africa has backfired after the African Union chided Berlin over the use of a stereotypical emoji. The criticism prompted Berlin to issue a hasty apology.

On Tuesday, the German Foreign Office tweeted that Lavrov had embarked on a tour of Africa “not to see leopards, but to bluntly claim that Ukraine’s partners ‘want to destroy everything Russian’.” The word ‘leopards’ was depicted in the form of an emoji.

Local officials, including Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki, were unimpressed by the pun.

On Thursday, she noted that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock recently visited the organization, which “is 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 and wildlife just a joke to you?” she asked.

The rebuke prompted Berlin to backtrack on its comments. “Point taken and sorry. We value our African partners. Our tweet was in no way intended to mean offense,” the ministry wrote. It explained that the leopard emoji referred to the Leopard 2 tanks Berlin recently promised to send Kiev to help it in the conflict with Moscow.

“We wanted to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine,” it added.

In response, Kalondo advised Berlin not to apologize, but to “be careful” and treat its partners with respect. “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.”

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Established in 2002, the African Union is a 55-member international organization which seeks to promote unity and solidarity in the region.

During his Africa trip, Sergey Lavrov has visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola, and Eritrea. On Friday, the diplomat accused Western media of biased coverage of his foreign tour, claiming that some reporters working in African countries “were openly presenting the interests of the Western information machine” and “distorting” the real picture of the events.

January 27, 2023 at 05:14PM

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