President William Ruto’s engagement with Ukraine has the potential to place Nairobi, Kenya, and the Kremlin at a diplomatic crossroads.

In the most recent development Dr Ruto has extended a warm welcome to Ukraine, inviting them to establish a grain hub in the Port of Mombasa to address East Africa’s food shortage. This move may not sit well with Russia.

Dr Ruto held discussions with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA, President Ruto emphasized Kenya’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, aiming to enhance stability and alleviate the suffering of the affected people.

“We strongly believe that nations can foster cordial relations, collaborate in addressing global issues, and adhere to a rules-based framework for shared global prosperity,” stated President Ruto.

Kenya’s burgeoning relationship with Ukraine is poised to be underscored by the establishment of a grain hub.

President Ruto and His Ukrainian counterpart in New York. Image: courtesy.
President Ruto with his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskyy in New York. Image: courtesy.

This development is particularly significant in light of Moscow’s ongoing efforts to expand its influence on the African continent. Russia has been using food resources, including wheat and fertilisers, as diplomatic tools in its engagements with African nations.

During the second Africa-Russia forum held in St Petersburg in July, Moscow argued that Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions worldwide concerning food security, despite agriculture employing more than 60 percent of its workforce.

The Kremlin stated, “The only viable solution to this problem is achieving food sovereignty, given the continent’s immense agricultural potential.”

Moscow acknowledged the critical importance of uninterrupted food supplies for the socioeconomic development and political stability of African states.

Despite sanctions, Russia affirmed its determination to continue providing grain, food products, fertilisers, and other goods to Africa.

In April, Russia donated 200,000 tonnes of fertiliser to Kenya, delivered through the World Food Programme (WFP).

This consignment was part of Russian fertilizer that had been impounded in Latvia due to European sanctions. The confiscation had occurred after the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The release of this fertiliser played a pivotal role in trade negotiations between Russia and the United Nations under the Black Sea grain initiative, which seeks to establish a safer route for the export of maize and wheat from Ukraine to the global market.

Notably, the fertiliser seized in Latvia belonged to Uralchem and Uralkali, companies previously owned by Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, who has since relinquished control of these entities.