FRIDAY BRIEFING | Africa’s peace train: An ego trip, misplaced, or good for diplomacy?
Africa’s peace train: An ego trip, misplaced, or good for diplomacy?
With several conflicts on the African continent, a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced an African delegation led by Cyril Ramaphosa would try to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
But with the war in Europe grinding on now for more than a year, the continent is feeling the knock-on effects of the invasion through increasing food and fertiliser prices and growing inflation.
For this reason, African leaders, made up of the presidents of Comoros, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Egypt and envoys from the Republic of the Congo and Uganda, felt it necessary to step in.
Many countries in the Global South have also come under fire for not taking sides, despite it being clear a sovereign state’s territorial integrity was violated when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.
On that basis, African leaders were keen to demonstrate their non-aligned position meant they were well-placed to intercede.
South Africa of course, probably had more to prove than the other leaders. The country has faced heavy criticism for not always appearing as non-aligned as it claims.
It was placed squarely in the international spotlight recently when the US ambassador to South Africa accused it of providing arms to Russia. This on the back of South Africa’s participation in military games with Russia and China on the first anniversary of the war.
During meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday in Kyiv and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday, the leaders put forward their 10-point plan, which called for prisoners of war and children to be sent back to their country of origin and unimpeded grain exports through the Black Sea.
There has been no movement yet on the plan, leading some experts to label the group as naïve when it comes to foreign policy.
Others felt the mission gave African leaders a chance to highlight their own challenges brought on by the ongoing war.
In this week’s Friday Briefing, we consider whether the trip was historic, an ego trip, or just misplaced.
We have contributions from Olexiy Haran who is a professor of comparative politics at the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, News24 columnist and analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela, head of African Futures and Innovation at the ISS Pretoria Dr Jakkie Cilliers and Professor Siphamandla Zondi of the University of the Johannesburg, all in one neat package to examine this question.
The visit of African leaders to Ukraine and Russia is an important step that shows the African continent is trying to play a role internationally. The question though is whether the mission will lead to peace or become just blah-blah talks, which could be used as a smokescreen for the aggressor, writes University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy’s Olexiy Haran.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the war’s impact on Africa has opened the door, however slim, for Africans to intervene and state their case. However several indicators show Ramaphosa’s foreign policy machinery is not cut out for the task of this magnitude, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.
Whatever happens with the African leaders’ 10-point peace plan, history will record that Africans stood up when the war was damaging the global economy and said it was time for peace, writes Siphamandla Zondi.