Africa signage
© Eduardo Soteras/AFP
Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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, Faki noted:
"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?"
The rebuke prompted Berlin to backtrack on its comments:

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."
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.