Why African Union is calling for peace talks to end Russia-Ukraine war

Wednesday June 01 2022
Senegal's President Macky Sall.

Senegal's President Macky Sall, the current chairman of the African Union. PHOTO | AFP


The African Union prefers holding dialogue with both Russia and Ukraine to end the war, instead of directly allowing President Volodymyr Zelensky to address its Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

Read: African Union slams Russian invasion of Ukraine

The recommendation by the African Union Bureau of Heads of State and Government, a taskforce within the continental body, now means the AU will seek audience with both countries as it seeks to secure trade routes for grain into Africa.

President Zelensky has, twice, requested to address the African Union to explain why the world should condemn Russia’s invasion of his country. Zelensky made the requests in April via phone calls to President Macky Sall of Senegal, the current African Union Chairman, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. He wanted to speak to the Assembly at its May meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Read: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asks to address African Union

Also read: Ukraine's Zelensky renews request to address African Union


But the African Union says it favours a negotiated outcome to end the conflict. In a communique meant to address a number of challenges, including vaccine supplies for Africa and looming famine from grain shortage, the Bureau said it supports President Sall travelling to Russia and Ukraine to “present the AU collective view on the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Africa.”

“It was also agreed that President Macky Sall, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, could pay a visit to Russia and Ukraine accompanied by the Chairperson of the Commission, HE Moussa Faki Mahamat.”

The AU has condemned the invasion by Russia but has been reluctant to endorse sanctions imposed on Moscow by the European Union and the US, citing past examples when sanctions hurt ordinary people. Instead, the continental body says it is establishing a ‘Technical Task Force’ “that will provide an analytical watch tool on the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Africa to Member States.”

Also read: AU chair Macky Sall to push Russia, Ukraine to unblock grain exports

Last week, President Sall said he will, in the coming days, travel to Moscow and Kyiv to meet with both Presidents Vladimir Putin and Zelensky on the need to cease fire and reopen sea trade routes for grain.

Russia has been accused by the European Union of causing an unnecessary war and later blocking Ukrainian grain exports to markets in Africa and the Middle East, regions that heavily depend on the country for the wheat supplies.

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Mr Sall said the “African position” is to encourage ceasefire between the two countries and resume grain exports. The Bureau, which also includes DR Congo, Angola, South Africa, Ethiopia and Libya, says it authorised the formation of the taskforce two weeks ago to continue gathering facts on the situation.

Also read: African Union slams ‘racism’ in the wake of Ukraine war

“The Heads of State and Government noted with concern that this conflict will continue to derail the modest gains in the path to global post-Covid economic recovery for African economies,” the Bureau said in a statement.

It “encouraged Russia and Ukraine to consider dialogue and negotiation as a means to resolving the conflict.”