At the end of 2019, the Patriarch of Alexandria, whose canonical territory encompasses all of Africa, recognized the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. In response, Moscow announced it would disregard Alexandria’s claim. It would both seek to poach congregants from existing Orthodox churches in Africa and set up its own.
Moscow’s action infuriated the Alexandrian patriarchate and the entire Orthodox world, which has a long tradition of respecting the canonical territories of each recognized patriarchate. However, it was welcomed by Russian officials and especially by the FSB, which saw it as a means of expanding intelligence operations in Africa.
In the months since the Russian church has won over 200 priests, often by providing them with generous subsidies, intensifying anger at Moscow among the Orthodox world and further isolating the ROC MP from other leaders of that religious denomination.
However, with the support of the Russian government, the Russian Orthodox exarchate has taken the next step by establishing an administrative center in Kampala, Uganda, and claiming to have parishes in 19 African countries.
If true, the ROC MP has emerged as a genuine competitor of Alexandria in Africa; if not, and as the Russian exarch admits that there is bad blood between the two churches, this expansion suggests that the Russian church may be providing cover for Moscow’s intelligence and subversive activities on the continent.