A 48-hour meeting with a double stop, in Ukraine and Russia, to mediate on the conflict that “damages” Africa and sinks the global prospects of rebounding from the pandemic crisis. The leaders of seven African countries are in the midst of a diplomatic mission that led them first to Ukraine, for a face to face with President Volodymyr Zelenskyand now in St. Petersburg at a similar summit with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The goal is to discuss a peaceful resolution of the war that has been dragging on for 16 months in Eastern Europe, taking advantage of Africa’s growing strategic and political weight. The delegation is made up of presidents Azali Assoumani (Comoros and current leader of the African Union), Macky Sall (Senegal), Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) and Hakainde Hichilema (Zambia), as well as the premier of Egypt Mostafa Madbouly and diplomatic envoys prominent from Congo Brazzaville and Uganda. The ambition, Assoumani said, is to draw up a “road map” with clear stages towards the end of hostilities. The details are not yet known, but the hypothesis was enough to make people nervous in the first round of meetings with Zelensky.
The synthesis between African countries
It is the first “peace mission” undertaken by African leaders to resolve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, an initiative that synthesises the various voices that have emerged in the war in Eastern Europe. The seven leaders in flight between Ukraine and Russia represent different lines in the block of the African Union, the organization that brings together the 55 countries of the continent: ranging from the neutrality expressed by South Africa and Senegal to the lunge of Egypt and Zambia, two Countries of the Continent that voted in favor of the UN resolution condemning the «invasion of Moscow».
The rift had fueled hypotheses on a pro-Russian slope of the African Union bloc, favored by the harmony shown by one of its most influential members: South Africa, the most industrialized economy on the Continent, linked to Moscow by historical ties and a occasional impatience with US and European partners. Pretoria has aroused the ire of the United States and the United States by hosting joint military exercises with China and Russia off its coasts and now finds itself in the thick of an international case for Putin’s invitation to the BRICS summit in August 2023 (the club of “non-aligned” countries which includes South Africa itself as well as Brazil, Russia, India, China).
The June 16-17 mission attempts to clarify and reclaim the continent’s equidistance between Kiev and Moscow, giving priority to the most urgent objective for the countries of the continent: a peace agreement that suspends the clashes and cushions the already critical repercussions on African economies, among the most vulnerable to the repercussions of the war triggered by the Russian invasion. One of the most delicate junctions on and for the Continent is food supplies, with the crisis triggered by the blockade of wheat imports and the cascading effect on countries with high degrees of dependence on cereal imports.