AFRICAN PEACE MISSION
Ramaphosa meets Putin and presents 10-point plan to end war between Ukraine and Russia
President Cyril Ramaphosa makes a case for ending the war, saying it has had a negative effect on the continent.
Representing African heads of state, President Cyril Ramaphosa has presented a plan for the cessation of war to both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian head of state Vladimir Putin.
The heads of state of Comoros, Zambia, and Senegal, were part of the African delegation that initiated peace talks, along with South Africa, meeting Zelensky first in Kyiv followed by Putin in St Petersburg. Heads of state from Egypt, Congo and Uganda pulled out of the mission hours before its departure on Thursday.
During Saturday’s meetings, Ramaphosa highlighted the adverse effects that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had on Africa.
“As a continent we are being negatively affected because of the conflict. The prices of commodities, particularly grain and fertiliser, the price of fuel, have all gone up and this is a consequence of the war that is ongoing. It is as a collective interest that the war should come to an end,” he said.
Ramaphosa went on to outline a proposal that has been agreed upon by the seven countries involved in the mission:
- Both leaders must listen to one another;
- The war must be settled through negotiations and diplomatic means;
- There must be a de-escalation of conflict on both sides;
- The sovereignty of countries in terms of the UN Charter and internationally recognised principles should be recognised;
- There needs to be a guarantee of security for all the countries involved. This issue has been raised by all sides;
- The movement of grains across the Black Sea must be opened up to remove blockages so that commodities can reach markets;
- Humanitarian efforts must be set up for those affected by the war;
- Prisoners of war must be released and children returned to Ukraine;
- There must be reconstruction of the destruction caused by the war; and
- Further engagements should be held to encourage more dialogue through the Africa Peace Mission.
But Putin felt that the root of Ukraine’s troubles stemmed from the violence that engulfed the country after the bloody 2014 coup “funded by Western sponsors”, which he believes divided the country.
Putin went on to state that there were Ukrainians who did not support the 2014 coup, adding that these citizens then decided that they no longer wanted to be governed by the president appointed after the coup.
“Russia had to support these people, bearing in mind the ties, cultural and linguistic, of those who live in those territories. For a long time we have been striving to restore the situation of the Ukraine to normal using peaceful means.
“We have signed various agreements between various parties … the Western countries and those who are in power in Kyiv were simply trying to pull out a leg. Subsequently they said quite publicly that they would not abide by our peaceful agreement and left it.
“It was after that, that Russia was forced to recognise independent states we had not had in eight years,” Putin said.
He said Russia had every right to recognise the independent states.
Putin then went on to say that the conflict could not entirely be blamed for the crisis in the international food market.
African Union Chair and Comoros president, Azali Assoumani, said Africa’s history had taught its leaders to always find a peaceful solution to war.
“As you know, Mr President, wars have always had terrible consequences and the longer they continue the deeper and unprecedented the crisis. In this regard we are not going to teach you any new lessons because your country has gone through many painful events in the past.
“Today, we are facing this crisis, and not only does it have an impact on neighbouring countries, it has an impact on the whole world, particularly our African continent.
“We undertook this mission because, as Africans, unfortunately we have managed many conflicts and it is through dialogue and negotiation we can resolve these problems. Our experience we would like to share with you in order to find a positive settlement to this crisis. President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a proposal in the hopes that he will be able to persuade Russia and Ukraine to end passive dialogue,” he said.
Read more on Daily Maverick: Zelensky rejects any proposal for a ‘frozen conflict’
Meanwhile, a significant number of Ramaphosa’s security detail were unable to join the president in Russia. They, along with a group of journalists who were invited by the Presidency to cover the talks, had to lodge in Warsaw, Poland, after the South African government failed to get clearance to fly over some parts of Europe.
On Saturday morning, journalists were informed that they would not be allowed to travel to Russia because of the failure to get clearances in Hungary. Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya could, however, not be drawn on why the security detail would be required to travel south when Russia is north of Poland.
Members of the Special Forces, Presidential Protection Unit and journalists were held up at Warsaw’s Chopin Airport on the afternoon of Thursday 15 June.
Almost 24 hours after landing at Chopin on Friday, 16 June, an announcement was made that SAA flight ZS-SFX could fly to Rzeszow, south of Warsaw.
That morning there was no food for passengers and they were only served tea and water.
But within two hours, the crew was informed that the plane would remain grounded, but passengers and crew would be allowed to disembark. Journalists and a certain portion of the president’s security detail had to be booked into hotels in Warsaw without their bags. Departure back to South Africa was set for Sunday, 18 June.
Polish officials refused the crew permission to offload containers containing weapons and other equipment, with Polish ground staff flagging issues with permits. However, General Wally Rhoode, head of the Presidential Protection Unit, said all relevant documentation was in place and accused Polish officials of racism and sabotage.
Rhoode has maintained throughout that the President would be protected during his many stops during the peace mission, despite the setback.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Standoff at Warsaw airport after officials try to confiscate weapons from Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit
Peter Fabricius reported that Poland’s foreign ministry had issued a statement justifying their actions by saying that “dangerous goods were on board the plane, which South African representatives did not have permission to bring in. In addition, there were persons on board the aircraft of whose presence the Polish side had not been notified beforehand”.
It added that the Polish government had made every possible effort to prepare for Ramaphosa’s visit to Poland and that the South African government “had been informed of all formalities necessary for the delegation’s entry into Poland and the required transport permits”.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele told Newzroom Afrika that Ramaphosa’s security had not been jeopardised and his close security, supported by Ukrainian security officials, had been adequate to protect him in Ukraine. He said Rhoode had withdrawn his statement on racism and sabotage. DM