On June 18, 2023, African leaders from seven countries, including Senegal, Egypt, Zambia, Uganda, Congo Republic, Comoros, and South Africa, took an unprecedented step to mediate the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. The delegation, representing the Africa Peace Initiative, presented a 10-point document to Russian President Vladimir Putin, aiming to formulate an effective solution to the tumultuous conflict.
The African leaders’ visit to Russia wasn’t just about conflict resolution. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, for instance, also attended the 26th International Economic Forum (SPIEF) during his visit to forge a strategic partnership with Russia. The African leaders used this opportunity to discuss potential economic cooperation, including Algeria’s ambitions to join the BRICS+ format.
The peace plan presented to Putin entailed ten main points that emphasized a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, respecting state sovereignty under the United Nations Charter, ensuring the exchange of captives, post-war reconstruction, and de-escalating the situation on both sides. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the delegate tasked with outlining these points, stressed the significance of a peaceful resolution not just for the two nations involved, but for the global community.
During the meeting, Putin acknowledged the balanced approach of Africa towards the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He emphasized that Russia had always been open to dialogue with Ukraine. Putin pointed out that Ukraine withdrew from the negotiation table despite signing a preliminary peace agreement in Istanbul.
However, Putin’s reception of the peace proposal was mixed. The Russian president interrupted the African leaders during their opening remarks to outline his objections to several points in the proposal. Among the contested points were the condition of Ukrainian children in the conflict and the source of the crisis, which Putin attributes to the West and Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also took a part in the peace process. Zelenskyy invited the African leaders to participate in the Global Peace Summit Kyiv is organizing and emphasized that any peace talks would necessitate Russia’s withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.
In a broader context, the Africa Peace Initiative demonstrates the continent’s growing role in global diplomacy. African Union Chairperson Azali Assoumani underlined the interconnected nature of the world, highlighting that regional crises potentially threaten the stability of the entire international community. Assoumani expressed Africa’s interest in the Russia-Ukraine crisis from this perspective.
Economically, this mediation effort represents a strategic maneuver for African nations. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s parallel attendance at the 26th International Economic Forum in Russia underlines the underlying economic stakes in these diplomatic overtures. The intent here is twofold – firstly, to promote the potential economic opportunities available in North African countries like Algeria to Russian investors, and secondly, to garner support for Algeria’s aspiration to join the BRICS+ format.
Politically, this initiative highlights Africa’s growing assertiveness in global diplomacy. It portrays Africa as an active agent in the resolution of international conflicts, stepping beyond the conventional donor-recipient dynamics or colonial legacy. The African Union Chairperson Azali Assoumani, during the talks, underscored this aspect by emphasizing the globalized nature of the world and the interconnectedness of regional crises. Furthermore, this initiative may influence Africa’s political relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Putin’s acknowledgement of Africa’s balanced approach to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Zelenskyy’s call for African leaders to join the Global Peace Summit underscore the rising political significance of Africa in international affairs.
From a security perspective, Africa’s active mediation in the Russia-Ukraine war serves as a clarion call for the continent’s growing role in global peacekeeping. The delegation’s 10-point peace plan accentuates key issues like de-escalation, diplomatic negotiations, exchange of captives, and post-war reconstruction – elements crucial for the restoration of security and stability.
Such active participation in peacekeeping efforts sends a strong signal about Africa’s commitment to international peace and security. The success of this initiative also has potential security implications for Africa itself. Many African nations are grappling with their own security challenges, from civil unrest to territorial disputes. A successful mediation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict might set a powerful precedent for resolving these issues.
The peace initiative’s immediate success is yet to be determined. Still, the act of presenting a structured peace plan symbolizes Africa’s maturing diplomatic influence on the global stage. This active mediation effort has placed Africa at the forefront of peacekeeping efforts in an era where international cooperation is essential to maintaining global stability. The African Peace Initiative’s intervention presents a beacon of hope in the midst of a global crisis and sends a strong message to the world about Africa’s commitment to peace and stability. Regardless of the outcomes, this initiative serves as a vital blueprint for Africa’s role in future international conflicts and crises.
Fatime Mehdi, Researcher at the University of Siena, Italy.