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Africa’s peace mission to the battlefield shows readiness to lead, not be led

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Edgar Su/Reuters

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Edgar Su/Reuters

Published Jun 25, 2023


ONLY Afro-pessimists have elected to use their negative energy to pour scorn over the Africa Peace Initiative (API) mission that grabbed the attention of the international community as it sought to broker a peace deal in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Those whose habit is to look down on Africa found fault with the massive entourage of President Cyril Ramaphosa that was kept captive inside their chattered plane in Warsaw and not allowed to disembark.

They cited with the Polish authorities that mistreated the African delegation on frivolous grounds of improper paper work. This is despite the fact the SA government had held several meetings with the Polish authorities on SA home soil, endeavouring as it later turned out – in vain – to clear whatever the rough spots existed in preparation of the much-anticipated peace mission.

I do not wish to waste much time on the doomsayers, the lot that looks down on Africa as a perpetual basket case instead of a credible player in geopolitics.

President Ramaphosa displayed his leadership credentials when he stood up amid a Polish storm in Warsaw, becoming the public face of the African leadership delegation determined to broker a truce in the relentless conflict that continues to claim scores of lives.

Included in the API were five African heads of state in the form of the Comoros Islands President Othman Ghazali, who is also the current President of the AU, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Senegal’s Macky Sall, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.

For far too long, Africa has set on the periphery of global affairs that nonetheless impact adversely on the continent’s welfare, security and development.

There are numerous positives that came out of the recent API in spite of the Western-dominated narrative aided by dominance of the means of communication.

If truth be told, Ramaphosa and co did not only Africa proud, but by extension the rest of the global south. From now henceforth, the global north with their penchant for wars should learn one important lesson out of the recent API: Nothing about us, without us. The West has caused WWI (1914-1918) and displayed same appetite when they caused and fought WWII (1939-1945). Through it all, Africa was dragged into fatal conflict not of Africa’s making, suffering unnecessary casualties and in some silly instances such as in SA, returning African soldiers were thanked with accommodation and bicycles.

Today, I write like a proud African in the wake of the API mission that met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv before proceeding to the Kremlin for a face-to-face meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The mission achieved a lot more than the Western war-mongers would let us believe. The fact that Poland so badly and unashamedly ill-treated the African delegation came as no surprise at all. Poland wants war with Russia, and can’t wait for and cause of escalation so that the entire NATO could be dragged in to fight against Russia.

Poland’s reputation also sucks, and that’s putting it mildly. When the war in Ukraine broke out, the racist authorities in Poland would not let Africans – mostly students – to escape from Ukraine into Poland. Only the Ukrainians were allowed to go through. This episode is a microcosm of Polish regard for Africans – sub-humans. They will tell load of lies in the aftermath of their disgraceful treatment of President Ramaphosa and co, advancing unconvincing explanations to do with paper work. Only their fellow travellers who are hell-bent on fermenting conflict with their sheer unadulterated blue lies. In Africa, we know what kind of people the Polish are.

And now, in the wake of the meetings with both Presidents Zelensky and Putin, Africa has advanced her own peace proposal. It doesn’t matter how imperfect the proposals could be, in any war the attainment of peace has to start from somewhere.

The API’s proposals provide for a working document in the right direction. Only Africa, under the circumstances, has broken away from the daily Western war-mongering. I know that Brazil’s President Lula da Silva is a voice of reason in the efforts to broker a truce in the Ukraine conflict. The Arab League, I am convinced, has refused to be dragged in the anti-Russian crusade led by the West.

And here, I am not putting any defence for Russia in the conflict; save to say that Moscow has repeatedly implored the West to address the security concerns the Kremlin has risen, to no avail.

How do we give peace a chance? Through meaningful dialogue around the same table, ironing out the rough spots. Negotiations to end any war are never easy. They demand patience, foresight and visionary leadership characterised by ethos of selflessness, meaning putting humanity ahead of self-serving geopolitical interests.

Africa has raised her hand and put to the table a bare minimum of factors around which the warring sides could commence dialogue. The anti-peace lobby, conversely, are holding behind-the-scenes meetings and communicating their resolutions to pump more weapons, capital and human resources in Kyiv to shore up the Zelensky administration so that it talks only about “counter-offensive” instead of a truce.

Of course, the West makes mega-bucks out of the weapons manufacturing. So wars work for their Military Industrial Complex. Without wars, there is no employment, and wealth accumulation. It’s a dirty game they play, and they remain enthusiastic at it, on the back of unnecessary deaths.

I’ve argued before, and I reiterate – had the West been suffering the loss of their fighters in the battlefield, they would be giving peace a chance. That none of their soldiers goes back home in body bags, in full glare of their media, gives them the arrogance to play dangerous games with the unassuming Ukrainians. They play Russian roulette, pardon the pun.

But, as for Africa, we’ve done what humanity could least expect of us. We initiated talks amid a hostile environment of a near total impasse between hard-core foes.

The US has a legislation not much talked about in Africa. It’s called the Prevention of the Pro-Russian Malign Activities in Africa, to paraphrase it slightly. In short, the US will punish – through economic sanctions, military attack or both – any African country Washington finds that such a country has been too friendly with Russia.

It’s a diabolical piece of legislation that blatantly infringes in the sovereignty of African countries, the same sovereignty the US-led NATO claim as the reason for their unprecedented material support for Ukraine. How hypocritical!

But then again, double-standards are the West’s stock-in-trade. They’ve perfected the art, and lace the filthy art with no shame at all.

Hence, it is prudent that Africa has unleashed the API. I am particularly pleased that the head of the AU was part of the API. This means that at the AU’s HQ in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, member-states would be able to receive first-hand, detailed report about Africa’s assessment of the conflict, and the standpoint of the participants and their attitude towards peace.

And then, of greater importance, Africa must refuse to bullied into falling behind the war-mongers’ line. In fact, Africa must speak in one voice, at home or abroad at the UN, on global matters that affect Africa.

It’s never too late to stand up and be counted. Africa has a right to choose any side in any situation, or remain “non-aligned”, although in my humble view that is still a position.