The Fits and Starts of African’s Peace trip to Ukraine and Russia

The fits in the trip to help resolve the war between Russia and Ukraine by Africa started in Poland with the grounding of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s flight leading to a delay by Polish authorities. It was Ukraine that meted out a similar humiliation to African students at the beginning of the war in Ukraine.  

Africa suffered a similar indignity in 2012 when a delegation of leaders of the Africa Union was prevented from landing at the Tripoli airport at the beginning of the Libyan civil war. We acknowledge that Africa is marginalized and ignored in matters of ‘global’ importance so we deign to question why our leaders would insert themselves into matters far removed from our sphere of influence and importance.

The delegation to Ukraine and Russia in 2023 led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had the following as members: Former Prime Minister of Uganda Ruhakana Rugunda, Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, President of the Union of Comoros Azali Assoumani, and Egypt’s Prime Minister Mustafa Madbuly.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s courteous response to the media was that nothing was on the table for Russia for a peaceful solution to the war. He said after meeting with the African leaders in Kyiv that peace talks with Russia would be possible only after Moscow withdraws its forces from occupied Ukrainian territory.

He said he failed to understand what could be gained from the leaders meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday June 17 in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city. He stated, “…This is their decision, how logical it is, I don’t really understand,” he told reporters. Zelenskiy’s comments signaled no change in Ukraine’s long-held stance on peace talks, despite the African delegation’s hopes of mediating an end to the war that has raged since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“To allow any negotiations with Russia now while the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war, to freeze everything: pain and suffering,” Zelenskiy told a joint press conference with the delegation.

While Zelenskiy was generous to the Africans with his invite to them for an international summit being drawn up, Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor of the Chief of Staff of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, wasn’t.  Insultingly, he said African leaders had neither the capability nor the power to get involved in matters they knew nothing about, adding that this was beyond their understanding.

The Ukrainian media quoted Podolyak as saying Africa and its leaders were using the failed trip to achieve their geopolitical goals in favor of Russia, which provides Africa with food supplies. He added, “The African delegation had no goal of settling the conflict or finding a solution.

Obviously, this is not their task. It is not at their level or competency. They just want to be on the misinformation agenda and resolve their own issues, like the increasing resources they receive from Russia, including food supplies,” he said. Podolyak said the trip was a mere fishing expedition for information on behalf of Russia.

Au contraire, the African leaders ignored the insult going further to confer with Putin in St. Petersburg, where despite Putin’s intransigence, the leaders appealed for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Putin insisted on continuing the war and employed even deadlier weaponry, including tactical weapons already deployed to Belarus to deter Western efforts to defeat Russia from Ukraine. Cyril Ramaphosa, on his part said the war was affecting Africa negatively. Among the demands to assuage Russia’s intransigence and soften its stance to go to the negotiating table was for Ukraine to be allowed to export grain and fertilizer.

South Africa, Senegal and Uganda have avoided censuring Moscow over the conflict, while Egypt, Zambia and Comoros voted against Russia last year in a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Moscow’s invasion.

Many African nations have long had close ties with Moscow, dating back to the Cold War when the Soviet Union supported their anti-colonial struggles. Comoros President Azali Assoumani and chair of the Africa Union floated the idea of a “road map” to peace, prompting questions from Zelenskyy who sought a clarification and insisted he didn’t want “any surprises” from their visit with Putin.

South Africa is a member state of the BRICS that include Brazil, India, Russia and China. Ukraine’s attitude to the visit of the Africans is not strange as Africa has mostly been non-committal in the war between two warring factions. South Africa is suspected to have supplied some weapons to Russia and is not trusted by Ukraine as a genuine partner in seeking peace.

Amandla opines too that Africa’s role in stopping the war and the trip by the AU leaders were more of a face-saving exercise. No African nation has been successful in trying any such stunt. Kwame Nkrumah’s trip to Hanoi in Vietnam in an attempt to stop the war in Vietnam ended in his overthrow believed to have been engineered by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1966. We would admonish the Africa Union to stay in its lane.

Posted by on Jun 26 2023. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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