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African peace initiative highlights immorality of war

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Pictures: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS and AFP Stringer/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service – President Cyril Ramaphosa has had a call with his counterpart from Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on the conflict in the region, prior to the African Peace Mission to the two warring countries, Russia and Ukraine on June 16 and June 17.

By Andre Thomashausen

The 10-point Ukraine peace plan presented by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sets out with the demand that diplomacy should replace gunfire. Further down in the list, one finds an instruction for the “return of children”, where it is anybody’s guess whether children in the Ukraine were abducted for sinister purposes, or maybe just moved out of harm’s way.

Telling sovereign leaders what they should or should not do, will not make them agree to negotiations. Without leverage to influence the conduct of either side to a conflict, a mediator can only rely on his or her grasp of the issues that have led to use of military force.

Picture: Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS/aken June 16, 2023 – Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, President of the Union of Comoros Azali Assoumani, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Egypt’s Prime Minister Mustafa Madbuly visit a site of a mass grave, in the town of Bucha, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Successful African conflict resolution experiences are those of Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique. They teach us that the identification of the key concerns and conflict motivators for each of the conflicting parties is the indispensable first step in a mediation initiative. In the case of Mozambique, in 1989, I authored the list of issues that had resulted in a bitter civil war, with millions of refugees and victims. I ranked the issues by relevance and put first the principle, that both parties acknowledge that Mozambique is a sovereign country, a member of the United Nations, and that it is governed by its government of the day.

This was the main concern of the government facing a widespread rebellion and armed insurrection. Sometimes it is necessary to affirm the obvious. I put second, the principle that all people have the universally recognised human right to be democratically represented and to enjoy the freedom of their fundamental human rights, customs, languages and culture.

On the basis of these two acknowledgements, it was possible to obtain the first operational consensus, namely that the presence in Mozambique of some 40,000 foreign soldiers (mostly from Zimbabwe), helping the government repress the uprising had to end to allow for a resolution of the conflict. It then took three years to get to the signing of the Mozambique General Peace Accord on October 4, 1992, which to this day is the basis of national unity in the country.

The three fundamental initial acknowledgements in the Mozambique peace process can help to rationalise the Ukraine conflict and to move beyond reciprocal demonisation and war propaganda. As a state, recognised through its membership in the UN, the Ukraine can legitimately defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the other hand, the Russian Federation is equally entitled to defend its vital security interests and exercise its right of self-defence.

Russia maintains that it had exhausted all peaceful means to protect the Russian minority living in the eastern parts of Ukraine, against many years of violations of their rights and denial of their security. Whether this is indeed so, is a matter of fact to be established.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its Ukraine Genocide Order of March 16, 2022, refused to consider the Russian objection that it acted lawfully in self-defence, under article 51 of the UN Charter. It refused because Russia had not consented to the jurisdiction of the court, as it was entitled to. The ICJ did a grave disfavour to itself and to the authority of international law by proceeding to find against Russia, solely based on the application made by Ukraine. The court should have accepted that its jurisdiction is based on the consent of both and not just one of the parties to a conflict.

Humans will live in peace when four fundamental conditions exist: Security of their lives and homesteads, food security, freedom of religion, and freedom of language and culture. The 30-year war (1618 to 1648) among the Catholic and Protestant states in central Europe was fanatically fought about righteousness. For three decades, mercenary armies terrorised peasants, villages and towns, forcing them to adhere to the religion adopted by their kings and noblemen.

Thirty years of torture and slaughter of those belonging to the “wrong” faith, took some 12 million lives. Some 40 percent of the European population died prematurely. After the siege of the Protestant city of Magdeburg in 1631, General Johann Tilly, a Belgian Catholic, rewarded his force of mercenaries by allowing them three days of looting and sacking, leaving more than 20,000 dead. The stench of the corpses was such that the conquerors resolved to burn down the entire city. France then joined the Protestant forces in 1635 resulting in a further brutalisation.

It was only the Peace Accord of Westphalia in 1648 that finally acknowledged the root cause of the war. It instituted religious freedom to all. The freedom of movement followed, as a logical consequence of the freedom of religion. The lessons of the 30-year war are that foreign interference escalates and prolongs it whilst the involvement of mercenaries leads to brutalisation.

Picture: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Sputnik/Pool via REUTERS/ Taken October 13, 2022 – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan meet on the sidelines of the sixth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia, in Astana, Kazakhstan. Early Turkish mediation efforts yielded the Draft Treaty on Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees of April 15, 2022, initialled by both the Ukrainian and Russian negotiating teams, but was halted by external Western intervention, the writer says.

As a result of an early Turkish mediation effort, the Draft Treaty on Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees of April 15, 2022, was initialled by both the Ukrainian and the Russian negotiating teams. External Western intervention prevented it from coming into force. For decades, Ukraine’s nationalism suppressed constitutional debates on language and cultural rights. Such accommodation, however, constitutes globally the best constitutional practice, as shown in the day to day lives of Belgians, Catalans, Basques, Germans living in Denmark and Tirol, in Switzerland and in over another 100 examples all over the world.

A process that can help the member states of Nato and the conflicting parties in the Ukraine reflect on the age-old wisdom of fair treatment of nationalities and minorities, should become part of an evolution of the African Peace Initiative. The African initiative is the first of its kind to throw the light on the immorality of a large military conflict, absorbing massive resources, by now in excess of $2 trillion if the new global race to re-arm is factored in.

These resources are badly needed to accelerate the fight against global warming and to overcome the continuing retardation of development in Africa. This initiative has been welcomed by both Ukraine and by Russia. Ramaphosa deserves credit and support for having given Africa a moral and principled voice.

Prof Andre Thomashausen is a Germany attorney and Unisa Professor Emeritus for International Law