Caught in the middle

War in Ukraine: Dakar at the centre of a struggle for influence between the US and Russia

By Mawunyo Hermann Boko

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Posted on May 11, 2022 16:52

Screenshot 2022-05-11 at 17.48.53 Roustam Minnikhanov and Macky Sall in Dakar, 31 March 2022. © Presidency of Senegal
Roustam Minnikhanov and Macky Sall in Dakar, 31 March 2022. © Presidency of Senegal

A Tatar in Dakar! It was the night of March 30 to 31. At the Blaise-Diagne International Airport, Moïse Sarr, the secretary of state in charge of Senegalese abroad, was waiting, as required by the rules of diplomatic decorum, for a very special guest: Roustam Minnikhanov.

This ally of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was not strictly speaking a VIP. If that was the case, he would have been welcomed by Aissata Tall Sall, the foreign affairs minister. However, his status did require some attention, as he is the president of Tatarstan.

This Russian republic, which is located in the centre of the former Soviet power and 800km from Moscow, means little to the average Senegalese person. However, this was not the first time that Minnikhanov had visited Dakar.

He had set foot in the capital in 2004, when he was the prime minister of this oil-rich state that became part of the Russian Federation in the 1990s.

This time, within the context of the war between Moscow and Kiev, and while Senegal holds the presidency of the African Union (AU), the visit did not go unnoticed. Why did Minnikhanov come to the gates of the Sahel? Was he sent by Putin, with whom Senegal’s

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