A group of eight countries in East Africa has asked the Russian government for help in building the region’s first cancer centre, a disaster control facility, and raised the possibility of a Russian military presence.
The group, called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
Representatives spent three days in Moscow this month and met Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, on 16 September. Â
IGAD executive secretary Workneh Gebeyehu told Russian news website Sputnik that in the meeting with Lavrov he asked Russia to share the coronavirus vaccine it is working on with all Africans.Â
He also said he had petitioned Russia for "peace and security agreements" between IGAD countries and the Russian Federation on "counter-terrorism, transnational crime, piracy".
"We don’t want interference in matters internal to member countries," he said, "but we want to cooperate, coordinate our efforts to fight terrorism and to bring lasting peace to the region."
Such collaboration would seem to raise the prospect of a Russian base in the region.
Workneh Gebeyehu said the cancer centre would be the first such specialist treatment facility in the region, and that the government of Ethiopia had already donated land for its construction. He said he hoped Russia would supply technology, materials and finance.
Other items on the agenda include a disaster prevention centre in Nairobi.
He said the region was facing a "triple crisis" brought by the coronavirus, food insecurity and environment disasters such as locusts and floods.
He added that the response was "very positive".
The visit concluded with the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the IGAD Regional Cancer Centre of Excellence and the IGAD Disaster Prevention Centre.
Image: The IGAD visit included the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Federation (IGAD)