Does Africa’s Peace Plan Have a Chance?

June 30, 2023
During its visits to Ukraine and Russia, a delegation from several African states presented a ten-point peace plan for resolving the Russian-Ukrainian war.
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On June 16, representatives from seven African states visited Kyiv to present the African Peace Plan, which consists of 10  points. The African delegation arrived in Saint Petersburg the next day to introduce the same points.

In its peace plan, African leaders attempt to combine the interests of the three parties: Africa, Ukraine, and Russia. The results of the analysis, conducted to determine the extent to which Ukraine's position on potential negotiations with Russia aligns with the ten-point African Peace Plan, are presented below.

1. The conflict should be settled in a peaceful way.

Given Russia's 16-month (and counting) aggression, a peace settlement is vital for Ukraine.

However, it is often misunderstood as this war is not a "conflict", it is a "war", that Russia waged in 2014, occupying Ukraine's eastern territory and Crimea. Russia then escalated the war, initiating a brutal full-scale invasion on 24 February 2022, mercilessly sending missiles and drones, systematically killing Ukrainians, and destroying Ukraine's critical infrastructure.

This war has been ongoing for almost 10 years.

Ukraine is willing to conduct peace talks, but not at the price of recognising Russia's occupation of Ukraine's territory or freezing the war, for it only to be "re-launched" after several months or years.

President Zelenskyy repeatedly notes that every war ends with diplomacy, but this war should end with Ukraine's condition.

2. The negotiations between Ukraine and Russia should begin immediately.

Once again, Ukraine supports diplomacy, but only after Russia completely withdraws its armed forces beyond the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine, including Crimea. This is what the adviser to the President of Ukraine, Podolyak repeatedly writes on his Twitter.

President Zelenskyy said the same thing during his meeting with the African delegation.

He stated that peace negotiations with Russia would be possible only after the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories, as well as the cessation of daily missile attacks, returning to Ukraine POWs, children and adults, unblocking sea routes, the punishment of high-ranking Russians responsible for crimes in Ukraine, and the reconstruction of Ukraine with Russian money.

3. De-escalation from both sides

From its perspective, Ukraine understands de-escalation as the withdrawal of Russian troops from the entire territory of Ukraine in accordance with its internationally recognised borders. Ukraine will continue to defend itself and liberate its territories.

If de-escalation means keeping the current stage on the battlefield or freezing the war, Ukraine will not agree to that.

4. Recognition of the sovereignty of both countries based on the UN Charter

According to Ukraine's Peace Formula, this point is one of the primary conditions for Ukraine. It sounds like "implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity and the world order". Ukraine emphasises that Russia must reaffirm the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the framework of the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly.

5. Ensure security guarantees for both states

It is a very contradictory point, given that Russia invaded and occupied Ukraine, it has no other choice other than to defend itself and reclaim its territory.

Russia violated international law and the UN Charter, so the question now is which security guarantees is Russia attempting to secure.

Ukraine has suffered greatly as a result of Russia's aggression, and to continue defending itself in the future, Ukraine urgently requires protection mechanisms and security guarantees, the main of which would be its accession to NATO.

6. Remove obstacles to the movement of grain and raw materials through the Black Sea

According to Ukraine's Peace Formula, Ukraine wants to preserve the existing Black Sea Grain Initiative until "no matter when the war ends", ensuring a more secure supply of food and agricultural products to vulnerable states, including African states. In this regard, Ukraine's and African states' positions coincide.

7. Humanitarian support for the suffering

The African Peace Plan does not propose mechanisms for implementing this point.

However, this point resonates with Ukraine's Peace Formula in the section on Justice, which emphasises that Russia must accept responsibility for its crimes. 

In this respect, the UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution calling for an international compensation mechanism for damages caused by the Russian war. Therefore, if the African delegation is willing to cooperate under this resolution, it will be possible to find common ground for further cooperation in implementing this point.

8. Returning prisoners of war from both sides and returning Ukrainian children home

This point is also included in Ukraine's Peace Formula, according to which Ukraine is working on returning home not only POWs and children but also political prisoners and deported adults.

9. Post-conflict recovery 

According to World Bank, the amount of Ukraine's losses from the war unleashed by Russia are more than $400 billion, with reconstruction and rebuilding set to take years. Therefore, Ukraine is highly interested in various mechanisms of recovery and is involved in all initiatives. 

In the African Peace Plan, there are no clear steps regarding this point. However, Ukraine calls for the use of Russia's frozen assets for Ukraine's recovery and proposes a resolution on Russian reparations for Ukraine, which the UN has already adopted. 

10. Deepen cooperation with African states

Ukraine is also keen on expanding its cooperation with African states. Previously, Zelenskyy stated about Ukraine's intention to expand its presence in Africa. Furthermore, for the last year, Ukraine's MFA Kuleba has twice visited Africa to develop diplomatic and trade relations with African states.

To sum up, in general, Ukraine supports most aspects of the African Peace Plan, but further detailed discussions and clarifications are urgently required. This is due to African leaders' proposals covering broad meanings, which can be interpreted in a variety of ways. 

If African leaders are willing to continue negotiations based on international law, Ukraine will only welcome the opportunity to support further dialogue. However, if such general statements mean testing the waters and defining where exactly lays Ukraine's red lines in possible future negotiations with Russia, the African plan will have no future. 

In this regard, raising the question of what is the African delegation's goal in this peace settlement. All peace proposals should be based on respect for international law and the restoration of justice after its violation, regardless of how much influence the violator holds.

Maryna Yakymchuk
Analyst of Internews Ukraine