Fact Check: Did Putin ever say Africa is a cemetery?



Mohammed Jammal a.k.a white Nigerian shared on Tuesday an often recycled quote credited to President Vladimir Putin about African leaders and the continent being a cemetery.

In the false quote, Putin was quoted to have said: “When an African becomes rich, his bank accounts are in Switzerland. He travels to France for Medical treatment.

“He invests in Germany. He buys from Dubai. He consumes Chinese. He prays in Rome or Mecca. His children study in Europe. He travels to Canada, USA, Europe for tourism.

“If he dies, he will be buried in his native country of Africa.

“Africa is just a cemetery for Africans. How could a cemetery be developed?”

Long discredited quote of Putin on Africa
Long discredited quote of Putin on Africa

Inspired by the specious quote, Jammal tweeted:

“Russian President blows hot on Africa…and he’s right I have to say. This needs to stop!!!”.

But no sooner Jammal shared the quote than his followers informed him that the quote was not true.

It has been fact-checked several times as totally false, but it kept making its way back to the social media and to Jammal.

P.M. News shares a fact-check done by AFP in 2019. It was thoroughly done such that the quote ought to have been buried in the social media cemetery.

Read the fact check:

No evidence behind claims Vladimir Putin made statement criticising rich Africans

A post shared hundreds of times on Facebook claims to include controversial quotes made by Russian President Vladimir Putin criticising the lifestyle of “rich Africans”. However, AFP Fact Check found no evidence that Putin ever uttered the words or issued them in a statement.

“When an African becomes rich: his bank accounts are in Switzerland, he travels to France for medical treatment, he invests in Germany,” begins the post that has been shared more than 147 times on Facebook since September 22, 2020.

Rich Africans, it claims, live lavishly all over the world and only return to Africa to be buried.

“Africa is just a cemetery for Africans. How could a cemetery be developed?” concludes the post attributed to Putin.

Using the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, AFP Fact Check discovered similar posts published on Facebook starting in October 2018. In the form of a graphic, it was widely shared in French and in English.

AFP Fact Check debunked the French claims here and found there is nothing to support the claim that the words are Putin’s.

Related News

These posts have been circulating online for nearly two years without any accompanying source. The text has also been adapted in other posts that replace Africa with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Recurring post

A search on CrowdTangle with the words “Putin cemetery Africa” ​​reveals regular virality “spikes” for posts in English starting on October 27, 2019, then from April 12, 2020 to April 26, 2020, and lastly on August 2, 2020.

Posts referring to Pakistan instead of Africa were mostly shared in November 2018, January 2020 and May 2020.

Those concerning Afghanistan were much less viral and appeared in November 2018 and in May 2019.

No evidence of such statement

AFP Fact Check was unable to find any similar statement by Putin, neither in official communications from the Kremlin, nor in major Russian news media.

These claims were also dismissed in 2019 by several Russian sites. A pro-Kremlin Russian political scientist, Rouslan Ostachko, denounced the blind “trust” Internet users have in social media.

“So long as our society trusts information published on social networks, this fake news about Putin who considers Africa to be a cemetery will not cease,” Ostachko said on Russian site Ria Fan.

Several websites, both in French and English, looked into the claim and also dismissed it for lack of evidence. You can find their debunks here, here and here.

One of Putin’s most recent public statements about Africa dates back to October 2019, during the first Russia-Africa summit, as reported by AFP.

During the summit, the Russian president said, “In Africa, there are very many potential partners with good prospects”. Putin said the level of trade between Russia and the continent was “not enough”.

AFP Fact Check also cross-checked the dates of the various virality peaks on Facebook in English with the official agenda of Vladimir Putin, available in English on the Kremlin website.

None of spikes on Facebook matched the release of statements about Africa or corresponded with Putin’s visit to the continent.

November 2018
The oldest public post discovered online by CrowdTangle was dated November 14, 2018 and has been shared nearly 7,000 times since.

From November 14, 2018 to November 15, 2018, Vladimir Putin attended a summit that brought together Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He then attended the 13th East Asia Summit in Singapore.

No African president or members of an African government attended these events, and the Russian president made no public statements on Africa.

June, July and August 2019
Much the same as the month of March, the resurgence of these posts in English and French in June and July 2019 does not correspond with any declaration or trips made by Putin; during this time, he traveled to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Japan, Belarus and Italy, but not to Africa.

In August 2019, Putin travelled to France, Finland and Turkey, but also hosted Filipe Nyusi, the president of Mozambique, in Moscow for the first time since 1987, as reported by AFP here.

The meeting was an opportunity for both heads of state to sign several agreements. Again, no statement from the Russian president about the African continent was noted by the press at the time.

​August 2020
Two posts attributed these remarks to Vladimir Putin at the beginning of August, without these corresponding to any event on the Kremlin’s agenda. According to the Kremlin’s website, Putin did not attend any official meeting between June 30 and August 26.

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