Peace mission between Ukraine and Russia in Africa: what has been achieved?

African leaders en route to Kyiv

The African delegation traveled by train from Poland to Ukraine and then to Russia

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed last week’s trip by African leaders to Ukraine and Russia as “historic”, describing it as “the first time African leaders have embarked on a peace mission beyond”. from the continent.

However, with neither of the warring parties agreeing to peace talks, did that make a difference, or was it just an attempt by Mr Ramaphosa to draw attention to the world stage, amid growing problems in South Africa?

Short gray presentation line

Short gray presentation line

An African contingent comprising leaders and representatives from seven countries met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin late last week and over the weekend.

It had been hoped that the trip, announced last month and led by Mr Ramaphosa, would help end the war, which has severely affected living standards in Africa.

The delegation of South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, Comoros, Zambia and Uganda presented a 10-point proposal, including recognition of Russian sovereignty and Ukraine and continued unimpeded grain exports.

They also called for a de-escalation of the fighting and the urgent opening of negotiations, the release of prisoners of war and increased humanitarian support, among other demands.

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to continue their engagement, South Africa said, but on Saturday Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to reject large parts of the plan. Ukraine also appeared lukewarm.

The conflict has led to grain and fertilizer shortages in many African countries, which import produce from Ukraine and Russia respectively. This has led to soaring food prices around the world, especially in Africa.

The African Development Bank says the war is directly responsible for a shortage of around 30 million tonnes of grain on the continent.

President Putin has threatened not to renew an agreement allowing Ukrainian grain ships bound for Africa to pass through Russian-controlled Black Sea ports.

This is not the first time that Mr Putin has threatened to do so, but if he continues this period it could worsen food shortages on the continent – something African leaders are keen to avoid at all costs. Although Mr Putin is unlikely to follow through on his threat as he needs African countries on his side to avoid diplomatic isolation.

In addition to raising international awareness of the economic impact the war has had on the continent, African leaders have faced renewed calls to condemn the invasion.

The Ukrainian leader argued that Moscow’s condemnation was necessary to send a clear message to the Russian people that their isolation on the international stage was the result of their president’s invasion of Ukraine.

Uganda and South Africa, which were part of the African delegation, are seen as aligned with Russia’s position. Last month, the US ambassador accused South Africa of violating neutrality and supplying arms to Russia, violating its status as a non-aligned country. South Africa denied this.

A supporter of Mali's interim president wears a face mask of Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a pro-Junta and pro-Russia rally in Bamako on May 13, 2022

President Vladimir Putin enjoys strong support in parts of Africa

It is also unclear whether South Africa would hand Mr Putin over to the International Criminal Court if he travels to South Africa at the next BRICS summit in August.

The main purpose of the trip was to help build the case for a negotiated diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, and in that regard it was not successful.

Ukraine and Russia reiterated before and after the African peace mission that they would not come to the negotiating table without certain basic preconditions.

For Ukraine, she wants her borders as they were in 1991 to be restored. This would mean that Russia would withdraw from all territories it has seized from Ukraine over the past decade, including the Crimean peninsula. This is something the Kremlin is deeply opposed to, arguing instead that for negotiations to take place, kyiv would have to accept its country’s “new territorial reality”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday talks with the African delegation would continue.

Although he failed to bring the two sides in the conflict closer together, Ramaphosa says his delegation has opened the door to future talks.

Given his problems at home, including crumbling infrastructure, regular blackouts and growing dissatisfaction with his government, Mr Ramaphosa may have been looking to play for a win on the international stage.

Unfortunately for him, this peacekeeping mission did not deliver this victory.

Leave a Comment