Seven presidents are leading the mission to attempt to mediate an end to the hostilities
In a bold diplomatic move, seven African heads of state are preparing to embark on a journey to Ukraine and Russia later this week, as they bid to engage their counterparts in both countries in peace talks. Coordinated by the Brazzaville Foundation, a renowned non-governmental organization specializing in conflict resolution, the African Peace Initiative delegation is scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Kiev on June 16, followed by a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg the next day.
What is the ‘Road to Peace’?
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa first announced the African peace plan, now aptly titled ‘The Road to Peace’, on May 16. Although the details of the initiative have not been made public, Ramaphosa said that the team will meet with Putin and Zelensky to discuss how to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka, South Africa’s ambassador to Russia, told RT that the initiative differs from others in that the leaders are not presenting pre-drawn proposals. He stated that they would first sit down with their counterparts from Russia and Ukraine and discuss what caused the conflict.
Who are the leaders involved?
The mission has strategically drawn leaders from the continent’s five regions: southern, northern, central, eastern, and western.
Senegalese President Macky Sall will represent West Africa, after leading the first African Union (AU) mission to Russia to plead for peace on the continent’s behalf at the start of the conflict in 2022. The southern region will be led by South Africa’s Ramaphosa and Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema, while Egypt’s Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will represent North Africa. Denis Sassou Nguesso of Central Africa’s Congo will also be making the trip, while Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who serves as president of the African Union, will represent the east of the continent alongside Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.
These countries have all declared their non-aligned positions in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, refusing to make a unilateral decision.
Why is this mission important for Africa?
Vladimir Antwi-Danso, director of academic affairs at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College, told RT that the mission is significant because it demonstrates that Africa can be proactive in intervening in global affairs. He emphasized that Africa has long taken a backseat to the international community, including the US, regarding action in conflicts that directly affect the continent.
Ramaphosa, who is leading the initiative, has described the Ukraine conflict as “devastating,” adding that Africa is also suffering greatly as a result of the fighting. Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said on Monday that Africa cannot “remain silent” because everyone is “suffering” the consequences.
Philani Mthembu, executive director at the Institute for Global Dialogue, believes the African leaders are trying to shield the continent from Western pressure to pick a side in the conflict, while also seeking to avoid the division that the crisis could cause within the African Union.
South Africa, which has maintained a non-aligned stance, has also been pressed to take sides. Its ties with Russia as a BRICS member have led to accusations that the country has backed Moscow.
Meanwhile, Confidence Isaiah-MacHarry, a security analyst at SBM Intelligence in Nigeria, said “the African attempt at peace efforts is an important pointer to the fact that Russia is still not isolated.”
Have there been initiatives from other countries?
Western nations, led by the US, have made a commitment to supplying military equipment to Kiev in their efforts to combat Russian forces. China has been one of the most vocal advocates for a peaceful resolution. Beijing proposed a 12-point peace plan in February, including “respecting the sovereignty of all countries” and calls to end unilateral sanctions, which it said were only causing new problems. Ukraine presented a 10-point peace plan last November, insisting on the withdrawal of all Russian troops from its territory, a condition the Chinese plan does not meet. Russia has rejected the Ukrainian peace proposal, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying Kiev needed to accept new territorial “realities.”
Can the African mission succeed where others have failed?
China’s proposal has been criticized for failing to demand that Russia withdraw its army from territories claimed by Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz argued at the time that there was no clear line in the plan stating that Moscow’s troops must leave.
However, Ramaphosa said Washington and Britain had expressed “cautious” support for the African initiative, and that the UN secretary-general had also been briefed on it.
Although Ramaphosa’s team does not appear to have the highest leverage required to persuade Putin and Zelensky, they should be commended for their efforts because the gesture could pave the way for other mediation to be successful, Antwi-Danso insisted.