As the United Nations Security Council debates Russia’s move to recognize the independence of the two separate regions in Ukraine and deploy “peacekeepers” there, a speech by Kenya’s UN ambassador Martin Kimani has prompted many attracted people’s attention. It is being touted as one of the best speeches ever given on stage. In it, Kimani explicitly expressed Kenya’s opposition to Russia’s actions and the idea of using force to change the borders left behind by collapsing empires.
In so many words, the Kenyan envoy insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, in a belligerent speech just hours before the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, could draw lessons from the African experience.
“Kenya and almost every African country was born by the end of the empire. Our borders were not our own images,” he said. “If we had chosen to pursue states on the basis of ethnic, racial or religious homogeneity, we would Bloody wars would have been fought even after so many decades. Instead, we agreed that we would settle for the limits that we inherited. But we will still pursue continental political, economic and legal integration. Instead of creating a nation always looking back in history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look to the greatness that none of our many nations and peoples ever knew. ,
It was an outstanding performance, but a performance that is still quite disturbing for its seeming appraisal of the colonial system that continues today. According to Kimani, Africans had no idea of greatness before the arrival of the white man and, with his departure, apparently left them with a framework to pursue.
The Charter of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), which he referred to, established the violence of colonial borders, largely putting to bed a debate about the undoing of colonial legacy – 32 assemblies of heads of state and government Those who signed it in May 1963 decided not to do so originally in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
According to Kimani, “It was not because our limitations satisfied us, but because we wanted to create something bigger in peace”. Re-negotiating the borders and the colonial systems built upon them was seen not only as a recipe for anarchy, but also as a hindrance to “something bigger” for the rulers (preamble of the Charter). It began with the words “we head of state.” not “we the people”).
As the late leader of Tanzania, Mawlimu Julius Nyerere, would later remark, “once you multiply the national anthem, the national flag and the national passport, the seats in the United Nations and the persons entitled to the 21-gun salute, a host of ministers Not to speak of, Prime Ministers and envoys, you have an entire army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balanced.”
Thus freedom was little more than a coat of paint. Like their colonial predecessors, shiny new states would continue to be formed when they were expelled from the Africans. Freedom would mean freedom for the state, not the people. Along with “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state and its inalienable right to independent existence”, the OAU Charter also established the principle of “non-interference in the internal affairs of the states”, which meant that the rulers Could do as he wished. within colonial borders.
In 2013, Kimani’s boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who, along with Vice President William Ruto, took office on charges of crimes against humanity in connection with the violence following the 2007–08 election, successfully ran for heads of state. Emphasis on freedom from punishment. OAU’s successor, in the African Union.
Kimani’s predecessor, Ambassador Machariya Kamau, also presented arguments for impunity to the United Nations, urging the Security Council to annul Kenyatta’s prosecution. At a function, he also said that people who were thrown out of their homes by election violence had benefited from their displacement. “They are outnumbered,” he argued, adding that many of those later resettled by the state had infiltrated prior to the violence.
So when Kimani speaks of “perfect”[ing] our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not return us to new forms of domination and oppression,” given the fact that the opportunity to do so was long ago represented at the United Nations by peoples – “we are the heads of state “.
Furthermore, while he is right to condemn Russia for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, the stench of hypocrisy permeates his speech. Finally, in October 2011, Kenya itself gathered troops and equipment along the border with its neighbor Somalia, seeking an excuse to send them across, despite dire warnings from the West. To date, the country has refused to comply with a decision of the International Court of Justice on the maritime border with Somalia, preferring instead to withdraw from the court.
Kimani’s speech has drawn praise from former colonists, who like to pretend they were doing Africans a favor, so it should come as no surprise. To be sure, Russia must be condemned and what it has said in this regard needs to be said. He only said much more than he should have and, in any case, Kenya was probably not the best country to argue with.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.