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by Philani Mthembu

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Categories: [in] focus

by Philani Mthembu

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The peace mission, to which several African heads of state traveled to Ukraine and Russia in June 2023, was a sign of a change in strategy in Africa: the continent took on a more proactive role and spoke out on behalf of all those not directly involved in the ongoing conflict are involved and still feel its effects massively. The delegation included heads of state and other senior representatives from seven countries – Comoros, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa. It was also significant that the African Union was represented in the delegation in the person of its acting chairman Azali Assoumani, President of the Comoros, and his predecessor Macky Sall, President of Senegal. As part of its peace efforts, the delegation from Africa presented a ten-point plan that incorporated existing suggestions and was balanced in such a way that it should appeal to various stakeholders.

Unfortunately, in the West this initiative was not taken as seriously as it deserved. Western leaders repeatedly emphasize how important it is to communicate with actors from the Global South on an equal footing. Meanwhile, the conflict continues to escalate, bringing heavy burdens not only to Ukraine and Russia, but also to Europe and the United States. The West should begin to take African peace efforts more seriously if they offer the chance of averting a further spiral of escalation with all its consequences.

Unfortunately, in the West this initiative was not taken as seriously as it deserved.

One thing distinguishes the African peace initiative from the various other initiatives being undertaken in parallel: the heads of state from Africa had the opportunity to speak to both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin within a short period of time. This means that the campaign plays an important role in the emerging architecture of peace initiatives in the Ukraine war, not only as a concrete individual initiative, but also as a format that extends far beyond the day.

The initial reactions of some Western representatives in Africa were perceived as an expression of the very arrogance that could lead, firstly, to the conflict escalating even further and, secondly, to the West losing its importance and influence in the Global South in the long term. When the US ambassador to South Africa accused the country of supplying Russia with weapons, he was met with strong opposition from experts and the South African population, which expressed deep disappointment with the US and its European allies. Despite the significant economic consequences and the damage to image caused by the allegations, which have now been debunked, from a South African perspective, the apology from the US Embassy in Pretoria was not enough to make up for the damage caused. The fact that South Africa and other countries that do not take sides in the Ukraine conflict are constantly put under pressure and blamed basically shows the West’s inability to accept positions on the conflict in Ukraine that are not exactly follow your own line. Something has to change in this blindness if the multipolar new order that is currently taking place is to achieve its goal and result in a more stable global order that absorbs and uses the experiences and viewpoints of the various regions of the world – many of which belong to the Global South.

One of the central topics in the discussions with Ukraine and Russia was the ongoing consequences of the conflict, especially for food supplies and energy security. According to the African Development Bank, the continent is missing around 30 million tonnes of grain due to the war.

Both Ukraine and Russia continue to have an interest in intensifying their relations with Africa.

Both Ukraine and Russia continue to have an interest in intensifying their relations with Africa. This could be a reason for you to take a closer look at the African peace initiative. Ukraine still has little diplomatic presence on the continent and may be realizing that if it becomes more involved with Africa, it may provide an ideal opportunity to communicate its point of view more effectively to African leaders. Russia has been actively working to intensify its relations with Africa for years . The second Russia-Africa summit in July delivered interesting results in this context. In particular, it was important to Moscow to offer an alternative to the Black Sea Grain Agreement that relies on economic and other measures. Russia also wants to increase the trade volume with Africa from $ 18 billion in 2022 to $ 60 billion in 2026.

It would therefore serve neither Ukrainian nor Russian interests to dismiss African peace efforts with contempt. This will remain the case, as both countries want to convey their own arguments to their African counterparts. In their appeals to the world public, Ukrainian representatives often refer to the consequences of the missile attacks for food security in Africa and other regions of the Global South. Russia justifies its termination of the Black Sea Grain Agreement, among other things, by the fact that a large part of the grain shipped through Ukrainian ports is not destined for the neediest countries in the Global South, but for rich countries, and expresses its displeasure that parts of the grain related to Russia agreement would not be implemented.

African leaders should continue to hold Russia and Ukraine accountable.

African leaders should continue to hold Russia and Ukraine accountable. It would also be worthwhile for them to expand their radius of action and enter into discussions with EU countries , China, India , Brazil, the USA, NATO members and counterparts in other regions of the Global South in order to create a broader basis for consensus establish the dialogue. Given that the conflict has broader implications and involves not only Russia and Ukraine, but also important EU and NATO member states, this would be in the interest of Africa, which represents the largest voting bloc in the UN General Assembly . Furthermore, Africa’s peace push should send a message to the international community that development commitments and commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs ) should remain a priority and that development budgets must not be diverted to achieve narrow military objectives.

South Africa is hosting not only the BRICS Summit , but also the AGOA ( African Growth and Opportunity Act ) Forum with the US and African partners, as well as a meeting with the European Union, scheduled to take place towards the end of the year. South Africa, for which trade and investment relations are very important, should also use these meetings to prepare the ground for possible follow-up processes with those involved in the African peace initiatives and to consolidate the different positions of the USA and the EU in order to resolve the conflict to end Ukraine.

As Ukraine and Russia continue to seek to deepen their ties with Africa, Kiev and Moscow may remain open to further dialogue with their African counterparts. Their peace initiative may ultimately not prove to be the decisive negotiation process that will resolve questions such as the future of the European security architecture. But in retrospect, one may see that he played an important role in turning the world’s attention to dialogue rather than further military escalation.

 

Dr. Philani Mthembu is director of the Institute for Global Dialogue in Pretoria, South Africa. He is also co-founder of the Berlin Forum on Global Politics, which promotes academic exchange on global politics issues.

This article was first published by IPG-journal.de https://www.ipg-journal.de/rubriken/aussen-und-sicherheitspolitik/artikel/frieden-made-in-africa-6938/

 

 

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