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AU under pressure from Europe to express support for Ukraine

Diplomats say a request by the Ukraine president to address the heads of state would be difficult

AU diplomats say the EU has applied pressure on African countries to choose sides with Ukraine over Russia in the conflict that has been raging there for over two months. According to one diplomat, some European countries have threatened to cut funding for partnerships with African nations.

This comes as Ukraine has twice asked the AU to hold an audience with President Volodymyr Zelensky. The latest request came in the form of a call by Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba to AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat on April 28.

Mahamat said in a tweet that Kuleba renewed the call by Zelensky to the AU chair, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, earlier in April to address the AU. Kuleba also expressed a ‘wish to develop closer ties with the AU.’ Mahamat simply said that he told him: “I insisted on the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict with #Russia,’ Business Day reported.

At least two African diplomats told Business Day that Zelensky’s request to address the AU at the heads of state level would be difficult, since the continental body has only two summits a year where heads of state are gathered, with the next one expected midyear.

There are also procedures that outline rules for extraordinary summits, and the Ukraine conflict, which isn’t on the African continent, hasn’t been agreed on by member states.

Palestine’s president is afforded an opportunity to address the AU’s heads of state summit in Addis Ababa at the beginning of each year, but the AU in its founding principles expresses solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for a two-state solution in Israel as an anti-colonial quest. But the AU has recognised that the conflict in Ukraine could spell danger for food security on the continent as it has disrupted exports of wheat, fertiliser and other agriculture commodities from Ukraine and Russia to African countries.

‘The AU Commission has put together an interdepartmental task team to work on it,’ a diplomat said. ‘Politically, the AU cannot discuss it.’ African countries have expressed different approaches to the conflict and their sovereign positions are respected within the AU, the diplomat said.

Almost a third of African countries either abstained or voted in favour of Russia in a UN General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine on March 3.

Another diplomat said the EU has requested that the Ukraine matter top the agenda of all high-level AU events, and even said that some European countries have threatened to cut funding for partnerships. This is with the exception of France, which has turned its focus to food security issues rather than garnering support for a side.

There is no evidence yet that the EU intends to carry out its threat to cut aid. On April 22 the EU Council made good on its promise to give €600 million for peacekeeping initiatives in Africa over the next three years. The contribution is made as part of the European Peace Fund, which was created in 2021 ‘to support partners about the world in the areas of military and defence,’ according to an EU Council media release.

Reducing conflict in African countries is seen as one of the ways to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

It is also under this fund that ‘a substantive package of military aid’ — a total of €1.5bn — was given to support Ukraine’s defence against the Russian offensive.

 

Source
Carien du Plessis/Business Day

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