Africa’s peace mission to Russia-Ukraine war has better chance of success- experts


African leaders bring message of peace to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as opposed to the United States and NATO's war posturing

from SAVIOUS KWINIKA recently in Pretoria
PRETORIA, (CAJ News) – THIS was the critical question four panellists sought to tackle during a dialogue at University of South Africa, organised by the Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Affairs.

The panellists were Prof Siphamandla Zondi, director of the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation at University of Johannesburg; political analyst and research director for Rivonia Circle, Lukhona Mnguni; Dr Faith Mabera, senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue for Foreign Policy Analysis at University of Pretoria; and Professor Anthoni Van Niewukerk, coordinator for peace and security at Wits University’s School of Governance.

The robust dialogue was moderated by veteran journalist Milton Nkosi, former African bureau chief of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The event came just days after a seven-member African peace mission to Russia and Ukraine, led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, travelled to Kiev and St Petersburg to engage presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladmir Putin to find a lasting solution to the war in Ukraine, which has caused untold damage to the global economy, caused a humanitarian crisis and affected much of Africa.

Some Africans have criticised the trip as a waste of time and money, considering Africa has its own challenges, such as the civil war in Sudan, the DRC and Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The thought leaders agreed that while Africa has its own problems, the continent’s peace mission sent a strong message of Africa’s influence in geopolitics and had a better chance of success because it was based on neutrality.

Prof Zondi argued that the peace mission by African leaders, who included Ramaphosa, presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, Azali Assoumani of Comoros and representatives of Egypt, Congo, and Uganda, sent a statement to the world that peace could be achieved through dialogue and negotiation.

“The African Peace Initiative was an attempt to express an African approach generally to conflict. We have learnt over the past 60 to 70 years on the African continent that the military solution never works,” said Zondi.

He added: “The victory of one side always produces new victims, who must fight back and take revenge over time. It simply creates a circle of unending violence and conflict. We (Africans) have learnt that the best way to resolve conflict is to seek a path of peace, negotiation and dialogue, and reaching out on historic justice…..and this is what Africans are introducing to this terrible conflict in Ukraine right now.”

Zondi said the African mission successfully presented its peace proposal to both Russia and Ukraine, something the Western world has failed to do since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While African states initiated and set in motion for peace, the West, led by the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance were inflaming the conflict and jeopardising peaceful solutions to the crisis.

Zondi argued that NATO still lived in the post-First and Second World War mentality. “Part of the challenge is because in the West’s view, only military victory over Russia is the solution, as opposed to negotiation and dialogue. We (Africans) began that process of negotiating peace (in Ukraine), and in that case the move was a success.”

He added that the West wanted to defeat Russia so that they divide the country among themselves. “When Europeans defeat you, they always want to finish you even when you are finished. To Europe, there are no negotiations unless Russia is defeated with the country’s resources shared amongst the victors.”

Zondi added: “NATO doesn’t negotiate. NATO doesn’t have diplomacy, unfortunately, they cannot be directly involved in this war simply because Ukraine is not yet their member. Although NATO is not fighting, they are instead pumping Ukraine with heavy military artillery.”

Dr Faith Mabera described the US and NATO as ” war dogs”, praising the African mission saying they sent a peaceful message. “The biggest weakness of European civilisation is that they solve their conflicts through war. There is no peaceful resolution in European history,” she argued.

She said Africa’s posture on Russia-Ukraine was not detrimental in the sense that the African leaders, who visited both Ukraine and Russia, did so without being partisan, a move she says conveyed the correct message to the two warring neighbouring countries.

“We know who the ‘war dogs’ in the Russia-Ukraine war are,” she said, referring to the US and its NATO alliance, and arguing that African leaders successfully conveyed their message of peace.

Mabera, responding to the question why African leaders rushed to attend to the Ukrainian war, yet the continent had lots of conflicts, pointed out that the African mission was to highlight the impact of the war on Africa, which has caused food scarcity, price hikes and energy shortage.

“Most African countries are commodity-based, hence vulnerable,” she pointed out.

Mabera cited unfair practices by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), global financial institutions including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, health organisations, climatic and developmental groupings as working against the success story of the African continent, hence it appears to be incapable.

“Africans have been excluded from global affairs. Worse, the external interests in African affairs,” Mabera said.

She defended the African leadership for visiting both Russia and Ukraine arguing that given space, Africa would play a crucial role in ending conflicts around the world.

Mabera said Africa’s message of peace was very critical as it was sincere, and the continent’s leaders on the mission did not take sides, a development she argued would be appreciated by both sides, as opposed to the partisan approach by the West.

Mnguni, a top political analyst, said Africa’s neutral position was not compromised, arguing the continent was impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war as both countries at war were providing grain, and oil to the African continent.

He said while the United States and NATO were aligned to Ukraine, Africa went to Kiev and St Petersburg with a peace initiative based on neutrality, a move which he said had a better chance of ending the war.

“The Ukraine-Russia war impacted Africa because commodities like oil, fertiliser, maize and wheat come from the same countries involved in the war,” said Mnguni.

He would prefer Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territories, arguing that invading another country in this century was “unacceptable”.

Mnguni further argued that Donald Trump leaving the White House had a huge impact in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Trump is the only US president to travel to the Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK) to have a cup of coffee with his counterpart, President Kim Jong Un. It has never happened in the history of America.

“Trump is the only US president to withdraw forces from Afghanistan. I believe if Trump was still around, this conflict in Ukraine could have been avoided,” said Mnguni.

He said the war in Ukraine affected both Africans and Europeans. “Europeans are already in Namibia and South Africa. They are not here to see president Ramaphosa, but to seek green hydrogen,” he said.

Professor Van Nieuwkerk said the African Peace Initiative should be viewed in the context of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit approaching. The summit is set for South Africa later this year and will further bring the spotlight on Pretoria, already accused by the US of supplying arms to Russia in the Ukraine conflict.

The presence of Putin in South Africa will further strain relations with the US and its allies, who want the Russian leader arrested and brought before the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes.

South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statutes and is obliged to arrest the Russian leader.

A few years ago, the country was in trouble after it failed to arrest former Sudanese president Omar al Bashir in Johannesburg.

A court order was issued, forcing the government to act, but al Bashir left the country in a huff, saving Pretoria the embarrassment of having to arrest a sitting head of state of another African country.

South Africa claims it is non-aligned in the Ukraine war, although the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), has publicly said, through its secretary general Fikile Mbalula, that Putin won’t be arrested if he comes to the country for the BRICS Summit.

South Africa and the ANC have accused the US and its allies of double standards, arguing that Washington’s invasion of countries such as Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq has claimed far more casualties, yet no American or British leader has ever been targeted by the ICC.

Van Nieuwkerk believes BRICS has a huge impact in global socio-economics, hence the West gave an opportunity to the African continent to present its own peace proposals.

“The impact of the African Peace Mission is influenced by the forthcoming BRICS meeting, which I believe will put pressure on the United Nations.”

Van Nieuwkerk suggested Africa should not be too concerned with developments far away from the continent, stating the continent had its own challenges in energy, food, health and other areas.

– CAJ News

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