By Paul Ejime
President Macky Sall of Senegal is travelling to Eastern Europe soon to seek a de-escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in his capacity as current Chair of the African Union.
Meanwhile Africa is assailed by endless crises, including in the southern Casamance region of Sall’s country, Senegal.
The visit had been scheduled for 18 May, but fell through because of scheduling issues. New dates have now been set, Sall said in Dakar on Sunday at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The peace mission is also overshadowed by political uncertainty over Sall’s reported plan for a third-term mandate.
Critics accuse the Senegalese leader of trying to use his position as AU chair to gain domestic and international support for his third-term project.
However, his party must win a majority in the July Parliamentary vote for the third-term plan to succeed.
Tenure elongation continues to trigger or drive political instability in Africa with five countries now under military rule after elected civilians were deposed in coups in four of the countries – Sudan, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Chad’s long serving leader Idriss Deby was assassinated last year, paving the way for his soldier son to succeed him against constitutional provisions.
Niger Republic reported a coup attempt last year, while the military junta, which seized power in Mali in 2020 said it foiled an attempted putsch recently.
The role of the EU and U.S. is unclear on Sall’s peace mission after Western countries, especially America, have accused Africa of not doing enough to support them in the war against
In early March, Senegal had abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution that called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine following the invasion on 24 February.
However, a few weeks later Senegal voted in favour of another resolution demanding Russia halt the war.
Nearly half of African nations abstained or die not vote in the two UN resolution votes, indicating their unwillingness to serve as proxy in the fight between super powers.
The resolutions may not be binding, but their outcomes could be used to measure the level of international support for the relentless measures against Russia for invading Ukraine.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has hit the World economy badly, more so African countries, many of which now endure high cereal prices and fuel shortages.
After almost three months of battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces and the sweeping sanctions against Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says “only diplomacy” can end the war.
“We do not want to be aligned on this conflict, very clearly, we want peace,” Sall said on Sunday. Even though we condemn the invasion, we are working for a de-escalation, we are working for a ceasefire, for dialogue… that is the African position,” he added.
Analysts say African countries ought to seize the prevailing opportunity to assert their self-sufficiency.
But it remains to be seen how they can sustain their neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the face of mounting Western pressure and/or blackmail, and given that many of African countries depend on advanced nations for major imports and development support.