In The Tempest, Shakespeare wrote, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
However, that phrase has been reworded in recent years to “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”
The literal meaning of the quote is that people with nothing in common may come together solely because of shared political interests.
Today, we have seen more and more bedfellows crawling out from the woodwork in more ways than one.
In recent press reports, we noted that six African leaders have decided to make the trip to Moscow and Kyiv to try to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The South African-led delegation includes leaders from Zambia, the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal, and Uganda.
These countries have taken different positions on the war, with South Africa, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo abstaining from a United Nations resolution earlier this year condemning Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion and demanding their troops’ withdrawal.
On the other hand, Zambia and Egypt voted in favor of the resolution, while Senegal didn’t participate.
South Africa has since then come under scrutiny for its close ties with Moscow — having hosted Russian warships for joint military exercises earlier this year.
Moreover, recently the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa accused the country of having provided arms to Russia.
The fact is South Africa, along with the five other countries, depends on the U.S. and its allies to a large extent for trade and aid, and given their position in the war between Russia and Ukraine, could find themselves at odds with the West.
In a recent press report, Steven Gruzd, an analyst at the South African Institute for International Affairs, posited that it is hard to predict whether the six-leader mission will make a difference.
He noted further that with the heavy fighting still in progress, the time may not be right for negotiations.
He further stated, “I think it might be a way for South Africa to distract from the ‘Lady R’ scandal, about South Africa allegedly arming Russia on a ship that was loaded at night in secret, and the other flak that South Africa has been getting, but I do think it’s coming from a genuine place of wanting to make a difference.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine have welcomed the African leaders’ mission.
However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has warned that some things are non-negotiable.
“Any peace initiative should respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, it should not imply, even in-between the lines, any cessation of Ukrainian territory to Russia. Second, any peace plan should not lead to the freezing of the conflict,” said Kuleba.
If one wants to be unkind, one could easily conclude that this South African delegation’s mission to Moscow and Kyiv is a foolish errand.
Furthermore, one could classify it as nothing but a public relations stunt.
Of course, any attempt at peacemaking where there is a war should be welcomed.
However, one would hope that the messenger of peace would have some clout which many would argue that the current South African-led delegation does not have.
In fact, it would have been better if these countries used their resources and time to help resolve the ongoing conflict in Sudan.
The truth is one should not seek to clean up another person’s backyard when one’s own is dirty.
The scriptural injunction is, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Now, there has been an armed conflict between rival factions of the military government of Sudan since April 2023, with no end apparently in sight.
Thousands of people have been dislocated, and death and destruction abound in Sudan, which is on the continent where all these leaders are from.
One would have thought resolving the conflict in Sudan would have been easier for these African leaders than traveling to the other side of the globe to talk about peace.
Moreover, one would even question where these leaders find time to intervene in other countries’ affairs when so much is going wrong within their home country.
Who is paying for these leaders’ trips and upkeep?
Say a prayer for the poor, suffering public!
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Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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