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Peace mission commences – Ramaphosa and African leaders to meet Zelensky then Putin

Peace mission commences – Ramaphosa and African leaders to meet Zelensky then Putin
En route to peace talks, President Cyril Ramaphosa landed in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday afternoon, and met President Andrzej Duda., 15 June , 2023. EPA-EFE/Radek Pietruszka

The mission by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African leaders to pave the way for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia is now under way.

President Cyril Ramaphosa landed in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday afternoon and was heading to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky on the first leg of an African Peace Mission to try to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Ramaphosa and other African presidents are expected to meet Zelensky on Friday and then travel to St Petersburg to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

African peace mission

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.Photo: EPA-EFE/Sergey Dolzhenko|South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: EPA-EFE/Nic Bothma| Russian President Vladimir Putin.Photo: EPA-EFE/Vladimir Astapkovich / Kremlin

However, three of the African presidents appear to have withdrawn from the visits to Ukraine and Russia, sending their representatives instead.

Although the plans are very fluid because of logistical problems, it appeared on Thursday that only Ramaphosa, Zambian president Haidande Hichilema, Senegalese president Macky Sall and Comoran president Azali Assoumani would be directly participating, according to diplomatic sources.

Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and Republic of Congo president Denis Sassou-Nguesso have all pulled out, according to diplomats. 

Sassou-Nguesso tried to persuade the other participants to postpone the peace mission on the grounds that the launch of Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia had made a visit to Kyiv too dangerous. 

Ramaphosa and the three other presidents shrugged off this appeal and resolved to continue with their mission. 

A document aimed at finding a resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict is expected to be formulated by the countries involved in the mission.

Foreign ministers from the seven African nations will draft the peace plan after the presidents have met Zelensky and Putin. 

Last month, during a meeting in Kyiv with Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, and former ambassador to Russia, foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, explained that while Ukraine welcomes the initiative by Africa, it should not involve legal or de facto secession to Russia of the Ukrainian territories Russia now control. Nor should it entail the freezing of the conflict and seeking a resolution only after that.

Daily Maverick understands that Russia has so far not tabled its conditions. Moscow’s main concern has been Ukraine’s alliance with Nato and the European Union.

At the weekend, Ramaphosa spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who endorsed the mission.

The SA Presidency said: “President Ramaphosa noted the peace plan that has been proposed by China and affirmed South Africa’s and the African leaders’ support of initiatives that are aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflict. President Xi Jinping commended the initiative by the African continent and acknowledged the impact the conflict has had on human lives and on food security in Africa.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had adverse effects on economies worldwide and particularly poses a threat to food security in South Africa because of sanctions imposed on Russia. The Russian government supplies African countries with grain and fertiliser.

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and occupation of Ukrainian territory have also impaired the production and export of Ukrainian grain to world markets.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Sierra Leone leader hopes Ramaphosa and other African leaders can broker peace in Ukraine

South Africa has in the past few months faced a backlash over its non-aligned stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This led to South Africa abstaining from the United Nations vote on Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories, while 143 countries voted in favour of the resolution.

In a further escalation of tensions, US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety rocked US relations with South Africa by publicly announcing that the US was “confident” that the South African government had loaded weapons and ammunition onto the Russian cargo ship Lady R in Simon’s Town in December 2022.

Brigety has since apologised, according to the South African government,  though he has not retracted his claims. 

On the other hand, Pretoria has continued to strengthen its close ties with Moscow, despite the International Criminal Court in The Hague issuing a warrant for his arrest in March, accusing him of the war crime of abducting Ukrainian children and forcibly deporting them to Russia. 

Since South Africa is a member of the ICC it is obligated to arrest Putin when he is in the country for the BRICS summit in August. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Second thoughts on shaking Pootin’s paw?

  • Mandy Cox says:

    Well, remember when a Finn (Artissari) and a little-known South African politician (Ramaphosa) brought peace to Northern Ireland and the IRA laid down their weapons …..

  • jcdville stormers says:

    While turning SA into a paradise for the communist elite,go tell others to make peace,what irony

  • Vincent L says:

    On this 16th Day of June, 47 years later, he gets to stand beside another mass grave created by fascists! Do you think that this little bell of remembrance will jog a politician’s conscious?

  • Perhaps Ramaphosa should suggest Putin brings some light reading with him when he comes to Joburg for the BRICS summit. He’ll have lots of time when in his cell at The Hague. If only…

  • Neil Parker says:

    I wish our President well although I think he and his party’s failure to condemn the invasion will have made it difficult for him in Kyiv. Anyway he went ahead despite the dangers – deserves some “kudos” for that at least.

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