The announcement regarding the African Peace Initiative to stop the war in Ukraine was officially announced by President Ramaphosa on May 16, raising doubts in political circles. News sources have announced that behind the scenes of this initiative is an incredible French businessman named Jean-Yves Olivier, who is also the head of the Brazzaville Foundation. Since December, he has been trying to pave the way for African leaders to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.
With his efforts and frequent visits and consultations, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Senegalese President Macky Sall, and Congolese President Denis Sassou Ngoso have declared their readiness to cooperate with this initiative and it seems that in In the coming days, other African leaders will join this plan.
Following the announcement from the South African president's office, three days later on May 19, Olivier returned to Moscow (where he has visited 10 times in the past six months) to fine-tune the details of his project. In Russia, he discussed more details of the African Peace Initiative with Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Olivier also traveled to Kiev at least four times in the past months, and in these meetings with senior advisers of the Ukrainian president, he managed to gain the positive opinion of Zelensky, like his hostile Russian counterpart, so that these two countries can soon host a delegation between from African leaders to mediate.
What has been leaked from these talks so far is that Moscow and Kiev have accepted African mediation and agreed to host a delegation of African leaders at the earliest opportunity, provided that the composition of this delegation is such that it does not tip the balance in favor of the other side. Accordingly, so far six African leaders who have expressed different opinions about the war in Ukraine have been considered, and Mr. Olivier has been tasked to examine these options more closely.
In between, the names of Ramaphosa and Yoweri Museveni from Uganda, who are more famous for supporting Moscow's position, and Hakainde Hichilema from Zambia, who are considered more favorable options for Kiev, in addition to the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Denis Sassoon Nguesso from Congo, and Macky Sall from Senegal, who have shown neutral faces in the post-war stances of Ukraine, will probably be among the options of this African-style mediation. The fact that all members are African will be a new phenomenon in the mechanisms and initiatives of mediation, dispute resolution and international peacemaking and a new and foreign experience for the African continent.
Olivier, who has been working on this project for more than six months, in December 2022, on behalf of his foundation (Brazzaville Foundation), which has created a powerful diplomatic lobby for himself, together with the delegation of the former Nigerian president Hayatu Obasanjo, to participate in the summit of the United States and Africa, traveled to Washington, where he was able to get the tacit support of some senior American officials for Africa's mediation plan in the Ukraine crisis. It has been speculated that the teams and people related to the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken secretly participated in the plan to bring this French businessman closer to the presidency of Ukraine. Olivier also briefed the British government on his initiative and was present at the Foreign Office in London in December with the former president of Nigeria.
He also tried to convince the new head of the Union from the Comoros, Mr. Azali Assoumani, to join this peace initiative in the meeting on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on February 16 of this year, which Assoumani (probably under the pressure of France) preferred to withdraw from the issue.
What has become clear so far is that the Africans are very willing to make this trip as soon as possible and the primary destination should start from Kyiv and end in Moscow before July, because the meeting between Russia and Africa, which is scheduled to be held at the end of July in St. Petersburg. This will be an important meeting for Moscow, which Vladimir Putin has invited all the leaders of the continent to attend, while African countries despite relations with Russia in many areas, in turn are under pressure from the West to boycott the event and they are perplexed. However, it seems unlikely that the heads of the five countries makes this trip without receiving guarantees, such as a temporary suspension of military operations or ensuring that a new referendum is held in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
A look at the records of this French businessman reveals that in addition to his decades of success in trade, mining and oil and gas in Africa and the establishment of the huge Fort Holding, he has also played various roles in the world of politics, especially in Africa. In the 1980s, he was an adviser to Jacques Chirac, the mayor of Paris, on African affairs, and when Jacques Chirac became the prime minister, he asked him to play an active role in a secret mission to free the four Lebanese hostages who were imprisoned in Lebanon at that time. In the following years, due to the influence and special relationships he had gained due to financial relationships with the officials of different countries and mafia networks, subsequently in 1987, in the exchange of 133 prisoners between the forces involved in Angola and Namibia and the release of several European hostages and prisoners and one of the South African commanders captured by the Angolan forces played an active role. Olivier also played an active role in signing the Brazzaville Protocol in December 1988, which led to the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola and the border war in South Africa. He was an active mediator in the Comoros crisis in 1989 and arranged the first visit of a South African president to France and Av's meeting with Mitterrand, and most importantly, he was the key mediator of the Sun City talks that eventually led to the power sharing agreement in Congo was divided between President Kabila and the rebel opposition known as the Congolese Liberation Movement. In the last two decades, he has been the head of the Brazzaville Foundation, which is apparently a non-governmental and influential foundation that has declared its duties to resolve conflicts and protect nature, and with these records, his entry into the mediation process in a major international crisis shows that except Government officials and authorities, even in the mediation process, the role of large companies related to mainly economic mafias surrounded by power centers among all parties, including parties involved, interested parties and even mediators cannot be ignored. Therefore, we should gradually add the term "peacemaker mafia" in the new political literature, especially since the previously mentioned records and the level of contacts and access of this French businessman and the preliminary measures taken in the process of this mediation make it clear that he possesses an ability and experience of taking action and bargaining and concealment and communications with the security services, to weld the personal and national interests of statesmen, natural and legal persons, and powerful and influential circles and cartels.
Although the suitability of peace mediation in a major international crisis in which major powers are involved with the geopolitical weight of a number of African countries may seem a little strange and even a joke, but it should not be overlooked that if these leaders as representatives of the African continent, this issue will be completely different with the existence of 54 political units that are on the path of increasing convergence. Also, in a world where many functions of the international order, including the mechanism of dispute resolution and peacemaking and peacekeeping as well as the geopolitical weights of the actors are changing. Maybe Africans can do what others have been unable to do.
Although African leaders have failed in several African diplomatic initiatives in the past, such as the mediation in the Sahel region by the African Union or the involvement of ECOS in the case of Umaro Sissoco Embalo in Guinea-Bissau, in many cases their peace and crisis control initiatives at least at their vast continent has been successful. In the last two decades, especially African institutions, and above all, the African Union, have shown that based on the policies of Pax Africa and the teachings of Nelson Mandela and strengthening the convergence of mechanisms for crisis control and dispute resolution, the continent has grown significantly. Moreover, the control and management of several major internal crises, including the peaceful transfer of power after coups, succession crises, the crisis of Rwanda, the Horn of North Africa, Zimbabwe, etc., have shown that Africa has relatively the capacity and knowledge to resolve conflicts, and although it is the first time that they are acting to mediate in a transcontinental dispute, because they are one of the main victims and without fault of the Ukraine crisis, their action will have more or less the necessary legitimacy in the eyes of the international community and the involved parties.
The acceptance of this mediation by a number of African leaders, in addition to expressing the negative effects of the Ukraine crisis on the countries of this continent, also expresses a kind of self-confidence of Africans. In addition, despite all the controversies of the parties to the conflict in Ukraine and their supporters, it seems that due to the deadlock on the fronts of the war in Ukraine, behind the scenes, there must be a serious desire among the main parties to the conflict, including Russia and Ukraine, and its serious supporters, the United States and England, to negotiate and find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis while preserving the image of the parties.
Despite all these efforts, it seems that Olivier's initiative has not been fully supported by the heads of Africa, and in addition to Africa, it has opponents outside the continent: among them, the opponents of France are, who for many years believe that this French businessman has a lot of discretion against the interests of major foreign powers, especially Russia, the United States, and England, and because it does not see a defined role for itself, it has not supported it so far. Hence, it will probably encourage its African allies to oppose and sabotage it, and the consequences of this disagreement in Europe and the lack of consensus in the African Union on this mediation may challenge this peace initiative.
Muhammad Nikkhah, Senior expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies