African Leaders Engage in “Historic” Peace Mission

With the visits of a high-level peace delegation to Kyiv and St. Petersburg June 16-18, Africa has asserted its role in international diplomacy. It is historic in that it marks the first time African leaders have taken on a peace mission beyond the continent. Africa, of course, has been severely hit by the conflict in Ukraine, in terms of increased prices for fuel and food.

The seven-member delegation was made up of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of the Comoros and current chairman of the African Union Azali Assoumani; Senegalese President Macky Sall, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, special envoy for the President of the Republic of the Congo Florent Ntsiba, and special envoy for the President of Uganda Ruhakana Rugunda.

The details of the proposal for de-escalation and negotiations they put forward have not been made public, but they were apparently not to the liking of President Zelenskyy, who was quoted by Reuters saying after the meeting that he saw no point in their going to Moscow. While in the Ukraine capital, they were reportedly told to take shelter from incoming “Russian missiles”, but Ramaphosa’s spokesman later said they didn’t hear any explosions or see anything out of the ordinary.

Moreover, Polish authorities refused to allow members of Ramaphosa’s security detail to disembark from a separate aircraft, claiming that their weapon permits were not in order. They were delayed in Warsaw for ten hours before being allowed to travel to Kyiv.

Proceeding to Petersburg on June 17, the delegation was received by President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, among others. The Russian President took the occasion to show the delegation, for the first time publicly, the documents of the draft peace agreement which had been negotiated in Istanbul between Russia and Ukraine in March 2022, and signed by both sides at that time. (Ukraine reneged on the agreement shortly afterwards, following a visit from then-U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and NATO began promising unlimited amounts of weaponry, intelligence, training and money to the Ukrainian forces.)

Reporting on the peace mission on June 19, President Ramaphosa said the delegation had raised the need for a stable supply of grain shipments via the Black Sea. “One of the points of the peaceful proposal offered forward by African leaders is the opening of grain supply from Russia and from Ukraine through the Black Sea to global markets,” he said. “Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of grain and producers of fertilizers meant for African markets. According to the African Development Bank, the conflict has led to the shortage of around 30 million tons of grain on the African continent, as well as a sharp rise in its price. As a result of the conflict, African countries are suffering from growth of prices for food and energy,” the President declared.

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