It cannot be called a controversial intervention since Ambassador Martin Kimani, the Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN must have gotten his government’s approval to lash out at Russia and link the sovereignty issue involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Africa’s history. Although critics are wondering if the top Kenyan diplomat is not selling a frozen meaning of such concepts as sovereignty, border, national security, he has been hailed by many a transnational media platform such as The Washington Post columnist in this Opinion below in which the Kenyan diplomat comes off as the best thing to happen to world politics since the end of the Cold War:
Kenya calls out Russia’s aggression — and denounces imperialism everywhere
By Karen Attiah
It should come as no surprise that the most powerful and clear condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has come from the representative of a country familiar with the devastating consequences of imperialism, colonialism and revisionist history tainted by dangerous nostalgia.
Late on Monday, during an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, Kenya’s U.N. ambassador, Martin Kimani, delivered a short but sharp speech that called out not only Russia but the general arrogance and perfidy of powerful countries broadly. “The Charter of the United Nations continues to wilt under the relentless assault of the powerful,” he said. “In one moment it is invoked with reverence by the very same countries who then turn their backs on it in pursuit of objectives diametrically opposed to international peace and security.”
Kenya, like many countries, had pushed for a diplomatic solution. But now Russian President Vladimir Putin stands on the brink of war in Ukraine. Pundits on the left have been quick to point out the United States’ imperialistic exploits while throwing up the intellectual version of the shrug emoji at the prospect of a destructive Russian invasion of Ukraine. Other progressive voices, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have tried to make the point that NATO is at the center of Russia’s anxieties, and that the United States has had a history of meddling in the affairs of other countries.
But what Kenya understands is that there’s nothing to gain in pointing fingers — whether imperialism comes from Russia, the United States or other great powers, global instability has come from those refusing to play by the rules they themselves have set for the rest of the world.
“Kenya and almost every African country was birthed by the ending of empire. Our borders were not of our own drawing. They were drawn in the distant colonial metropoles of London, Paris and Lisbon with no regard for the ancient nations that they cleaved apart,” Kimani said. “Today, across the border of every single African country, live our countrymen with whom we share deep historical, cultural and linguistic bonds. At independence, had we chosen to pursue states on the basis of ethnic, racial or religious homogeneity, we would still be waging bloody wars these many decades later.”
Instead, Kimani went on, Kenya and other African countries chose to abide by the borders that were externally imposed, “rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia.” They did so, he said, “because we wanted something greater, forged in peace.”
“We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression,” he added.
The speech brought to mind the appeals of Pan-African leaders to the international community almost a century years ago. Europe had torn itself apart in war, not once, but twice — and the scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and others were writing against colonialism and exploitation. In his 1947 book, “The World and Africa,” Du Bois wrote about how those who experience colonialism often went unheard. He wrote of the technological innovations and “miraculously greater brute force” that led to the European-dominated world order, and wondered, “was there no other way for the advance of mankind? Were there no other cultural patterns, ways of action, goals of progress, which might and may lead man to something finer and higher?”
This is the question that, 75 years later, Kenya has answered on the world stage — that the pursuit of prosperous, pluralistic nations is possible.
Black voices have been sounding the alarm on the dangers of colonialism for years but have often been left out of the political discourse when it comes to foreign policy, including on Russia. Journalist Terrell Jermaine Starr, a former Fulbright scholar in Ukraine and expert on Russia, has been one of these voices, writing in 2017 that Russia continues to operate under the same supremacist mind-set as it did during the U.S.S.R., when it used crushing force against Ukraine and other non-Russians. “Whether it was killing Ukrainians, ‘civilizing’ Central Asian peoples or disparaging black peoples while pretending to treat them as equals, the USSR always centered the Russian slav,” Starr wrote. “The Russian Federation is no different.”
Today, people are rightfully praising Kimani’s clarity on the link between colonialism and global instability, but the African continent and its descendants still go unheard by the very same institutions that claim to be for global peace. Africa still has no permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council. As the world scrambles to avert Russia’s imperialistic bloodshed in Ukraine, maybe it’s time for great powers to take a cue from Africa and work together to keep dead empires in the past, where they belong.