Africans with peace plans for Ukraine, but how neutral are they?

Africans with peace plans for Ukraine, but how neutral are they?
South African President Ramaphosa speaks with Putin at their 2019 meeting in Russia

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  • Robert Chisal

    foreign editor

  • Robert Chisal

    foreign editor

Today African leaders are embarking on what they call a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine and Russia. Six leaders led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa first presented their plans in Kiev, before traveling to St Petersburg, where the delegation was greeted by Vladimir Putin.

It’s a great visit. Despite South Africa’s declared neutrality towards the warring factions, Ramaphosa has fostered warming relations between his country and Russia in recent months.

Confidence building measures

Just before the visit, Reuters was allowed to see a document describing the plans. In it, African leaders called for a number of “confidence-building measures”. One of them may be the withdrawal of Russian troops, but it is not clear where.

The document would also refer to the removal of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Putin, and the lifting of sanctions on Russia.

Reuters wrote that the document also talks about the need for negotiations between Russia and Western countries.

The South African president has discussed the proposal in recent days with both of them put it in as a Chinese leader Xi Jinpingwhich previously presented its own peace plan.

Ukraine warns

The Russian and Chinese leaders embraced the African mission. Admittedly, Ukraine welcomes the visit, but is more skeptical about it. At an online press conference, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba issued a warning.

He said that the peace proposal “should respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and should not in any way, even tacitly, suggest that Ukraine cede its territory to Russia.” In addition, the proposal should not freeze the conflict.

In any case, African countries have every reason to seek a solution to the conflict in Ukraine. The supply of grain from the Black Sea ports was interrupted for some time by the war. This led to a rise in food and fertilizer prices in Africa. Despite a grain deal then agreed upon, the supply of grain is uncertain due to the war.

Impartiality questionable

South African Ramaphosa is joined by the leaders of Uganda, Senegal, Egypt, Zambia and the Republic of the Congo (formerly Congo-Brazzaville, the larger DRC’s neighbor). Of all the countries in the delegation, only Egypt and Zambia voted “yes” earlier this year to a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion and calling for Russia to withdraw its forces.

Russian Admiral Yevminov (left) with colleagues from South Africa and China at a naval exercise in February

South Africa in particular has recently been the target of criticism for its stance toward Russia. Earlier this year, the South African Navy conducted joint military exercises with Russian warships.

in Answer Then the Ukrainian government said it was disappointed. He added, “While the international community, including countries in Africa, condemns Russian aggression and escalates Russia’s isolation to end the war, the South African government seeks to benefit from the experience of the Russian war machine.”

Last month, the US ambassador accused South Africa of secretly supplying weapons to Russia despite an international arms embargo. South Africa is investigating the claims, but the damage has already been done. Relations with Washington have soured since then.

President Putin is scheduled to visit South Africa at the end of the summer. A spokesman for Ramaphosa said the invitation to Putin was still open despite the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for the Russian leader for war crimes in Ukraine.

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