African Nations Assert Their Role in International Diplomacy

A group of six African countries, led by South Africa, are preparing to send a delegation to Moscow and Kiev in an effort to promote a negotiated settlement to the war. The six are Egypt, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, South Africa Uganda, Zambia, and the Comoro Islands, which now holds the rotating presidency of the African Union.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on May 16 that he had already discussed the proposal with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who each agreed to receive the African delegation in Moscow and Kyiv. He added that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other countries support the African initiative.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, when asked to comment on the initiative at a May 18 joint press conference with visiting Ugandan Foreign Minister Jeje Odongo, said that President Putin was always “ready to talk with all our partners that are sincerely interested in having stability in the world”.

President Ramaphosa has come under intense pressure from the U.S., the U.K. and the EU to denounce the “Russian war” in Ukraine, and break relations with Russia. Just two weeks ago, the U.S. ambassador to Pretoria, Reuben Brigety, accused the government of shipping arms and ammunition to Russia, which the government denied. After he was summoned by Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor to her office to protest his undiplomatic and arrogant behavior, the U.S. ambassador “apologized unreservedly” for the accusation. Naledi Pandor has repeatedly and outspokenly stressed that South Africa would not be “bullied” by the United States or anyone else.(Note that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock quickly took up Brigety’s charges, but never acknowledged, as far as we could ascertain, that they were false.

South Africa also holds the presidency of the BRICS this year, which has Washington and London very worried. Naledi Pandor has already announced that the five countries of the group will debate the feasibility of introducing a common currency for global trade as an alternative to the American dollar at the bloc’s next summit in Johannesburg.

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