African leaders seek a negotiated peace in Russia-Ukraine conflict


 desk of the President – Monday, 19 June 2023Back to topMonday, 19 June 2023African leaders seek a negotiated peace in Russia-Ukraine conflict Dear Fellow South African, I have just returned from Ukraine and the Russian Federation as part of a delegation from seven African countries on a mission to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The mission comprised the presidents of Senegal, the Comoros, Zambia and South Africa, together with the Prime Minister of Egypt and envoys from the Republic of Congo and Uganda. Last Friday we met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital Kyiv, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Saturday. We presented a ten-point proposal that we as African leaders believe can contribute to various efforts that have been made by various parties to bring the conflict to an end. Included in the proposal being put forward as part of the African Peace Initiative are calls for a de-escalation of fighting and for negotiations to commence with urgency; for the release of prisoners of war and return of children; for greater humanitarian support; and for reconstruction efforts to be prioritised. We affirmed that the sovereignty of countries should be respected in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter. We highlighted the urgent need that the security of both nations should be guaranteed. One of the key achievements of the Peace Mission was the positive reception we received from both sides, which we found encouraging and which provides cause for optimism that the proposals will be given consideration. As African leaders, our primary concern is for the lives of the people directly affected by the conflict. We believe that everything should be done to end the fighting to prevent further loss of life, injury, displacement and destruction. As the international community we need to work together to prevent any further suffering. There is a misconception that this conflict is far-removed from the realities of our own country. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is having a very real effect on African countries and economies. We made the point to the Ukrainian and Russian Presidents that while we undertook this mission as members of the international community committed to peacebuilding, we as the African continent also have a material interest in seeing a resolution to the conflict. Both Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of grains and producers of fertiliser destined for African markets. According to the African Development Bank, the conflict has “triggered a shortage of about 30 million tonnes of grains on the African continent, along with a sharp increase in cost.” As a result of this conflict African countries are negatively affected by the rising costs of food and energy. Supply chain disruptions have caused a shortage of farming inputs such as fertilisers threatening the food security of a number of African countries. Another point of the peace proposal being put forward by African leaders is for the opening up of the movement of grains across the Black Sea for grains from Russia or Ukraine to reach world markets. This initiative has been historic in that it is the first time African leaders have embarked on a peace mission beyond the shores of the continent. Although the delegation comprised countries that have taken diverse positions on the various UN resolutions on the conflict, the countries represented have all taken a non-aligned stance on this issue. This has lent credibility to the mission and engendered trust from both sides. As South Africa we continue to maintain our position that this conflict should be settled through negotiation and by diplomatic means, in line with founding principles of the Non-Aligned Movement, and that it is in the collective interest of everyone that it come to an end soon. The toll on human life, the extensive destruction and the ripple effect it has had on the global economy mean that no country has been shielded. The conflict has caused instability, precipitated a humanitarian crisis and sent shockwaves through vulnerable economies. Just as we as African leaders visited Ukraine and Russia to explain the impact the conflict is having on our citizens, we also believe we can contribute to international efforts to bring about the conditions for a lasting peace. Both Presidents Zelensky and Putin agreed to further engagements following this initial visit. As engagements with both parties and African leaders continue, it is our hope that as the process moves forward, a foundation can be set for a de-escalation of the conflict and negotiation, the two crucial preconditions for a lasting peace. With best regards,