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A political settlement of the war means peace for all

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Picture: Nacho Doce/REUTERS/January 28, 2023 An unexploded Grad rocket is embedded in a field in the village of Posad-Pokrovske, north-west of the city of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, yesterday. The surrounding agricultural fields are heavily mined, making them unworkable. A political settlement through dialogue seems more urgent now that the use of more dangerous weapons are signalling an escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, say the writers.

By Mikatekiso Kubayi and Hei Sing Tso

The evolving conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to concern the world. The threat of using cluster ammunition, which is banned by many states, and especially when peace efforts are under way, is a concern for the world. The development suggests a reluctance to find a peaceful resolution and favours the sustenance of the conflict instead.

This is a concern for the entire globe because an escalation in the conflict could lead to the use of increasingly more deadly weapons and engulf people worldwide who were never party to the cause of the conflict. The peace mediation efforts by Africa, China and Brazil, among others, need global support to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as soon as possible and refocus the nations of the world on reconstruction and development.

When the African leaders’ delegation met President Vladimir Putin last month during a mediation visit in Moscow, they mentioned part of the 12 points in China’s proposal for a political settlement of the conflict. Putin agreed with this. A political settlement through dialogue seems more urgent now that more dangerous weapons are signalling an escalation in the conflict.

China and Africa can collaborate to accelerate the peace process. When the conflict began, the first action by Africans was to call for a ceasefire. Similarly, the second point in China’s proposal is ceasing hostilities. In this way, Africans and Chinese have similar traditions towards conflict resolution.

For Africans, it is not the time to investigate who should be blamed for the conflict. It is not useful for peace. Stopping the shooting should be a start. Any cause of international conflict is complex, and the issue of responsibility should be reserved for later negotiation. On the other hand, the withdrawal of troops, as demanded by the West, is not sensible. Motivating both sides to cease fire immediately is a challenge for Africa, China and everyone making an effort for peace.

One possible approach is to propose local and short-term ceasefires for humanitarian assistance or exchange of prisoners of war (POW). A strategic task is how to convey this message through diplomacy and to convince others that this is the better route to take. African leaders have expressed concern about disruptions to the supply of grains and fertilisers for the agriculture industry in Africa and food security generally.

In China’s proposal, grain exports and supply chains are also mentioned. For Africa and China, the Russia-Ukraine conflict should not be treated as a local problem or solely as a European issue. The adverse consequences affect the globe and reach all the continents. This is also an opportunity for Africa and China to motivate other international community countries to foster and participate in a negotiated peaceful conflict settlement.

One strategy is to present and convince the global public about the short-term harms to economic well-being, such as sharp increases in energy, making it more costly for producers to produce goods, thus placing further strain on the cost of living for many across the globe. This is undoubtedly a motivating factor for states to take action for peace.

One crucial issue is the divided Europe. Energy supply remains critical for many European countries. Winter is coming for the continent. Africa and China may consider sending diplomats and delegations to meet some European leaders for this purpose. The conflict will boost military budgets and defence industries at the expense of other sectors crucial for development. Supply chains and resources for other sectors will be reduced even after the political settlement. Hence, the sooner this is resolved, the better for most European businesses and enterprises.

The Brazilian and Indonesian presidents have also advocated mediation. Second, the peace efforts are consultative. We argue that Africa and China can work with other nations to take joint actions in various aspects. Suppose direct negotiation takes place in the future; in that case, representatives from Africa, China, and other interested nations should also join as observers and facilitators to ensure that global interests are preserved. An ad hoc United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force comprising the African Union (AU), China, India, Latin American States, Middle East, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia’s contributions should also be welcome.

The third crucial point in the proposal is the promotion of post-conflict reconstruction. The conflict will end anyway, but we should plan for reconstruction before the end. In fact, some have made grand plans for this, but the interests of the Ukrainian people and, indeed, those of the globe must be ensured. Africa has changed, and some countries, like Rwanda, have fast growth rates. Post-conflict reconstruction is a mega project, not confined to Ukraine, perhaps extending to Europe and Russia. The collective African, Chinese, and other efforts can lead this project, each contributing what they can.

Some have said we learn from history, and we don’t learn from history. All wars have been costly, mainly for those who have never had a say. Today, in addition to Russian and Ukrainian loss of lives, the Global South suffers from the harsh economic consequences as a ripple effect of the conflict. This is even though it is generally the lesser-developed region of the world contending with the burden-some cost of transition to greener energy and doing without technological, financial and other advantages.

The region and the world are trying to recover and rebuild following the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The global financial crisis in 2008 also came at a significant cost to the people of the Global South. The world is agitating for a refocus on development. Huge numbers are said to be required to finance development worldwide. The Think 20, Summit for New Global Financial Pact and others all argue for a focus on financing for development, to better lives, prepare for pandemics and avoid them, and cater for a better future for young people.

The cause and motivation for peace can never be more apparent than now. Russia and Ukraine are an essential part of the effort to deliver development to the Global South and the world. They are an essential part of the daily realities of citizens worldwide.

Mikatekiso Kubayi is a researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue and Dr Hei Sing Tso is a research fellow at The Centre for China and Globalisation in China.