Russia-Ukraine summit: Revisiting Kenya's respect for territorial integrity

To mark the start of the Ukraine-Russia Peace Summit being held in Burgenstock in Switzerland between June 15 and 16, we republish the Statement to an Emergency Session of the UN Security Council on the Situation in Ukraine, by Ambassador Martin Kimani, currently the outgoing Ambassador of Kenya to The United Nations In New York.

The video of this speech laying out Kenya’s support for Ukraine and its historical context went viral and was viewed by tens of millions around the world.

We meet tonight on the brink of a major conflict in Ukraine. The diplomacy we urged on the 17th of February is failing. The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine stand breached. The Charter of the United Nations continues to wilt under the relentless assault of the powerful. 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. 

In the last two meetings on the situation in Ukraine, and the build-up of forces by the Russian Federation, Kenya urged that diplomacy be given a chance. Our cry was not heeded and, more importantly, the Charter’s demand for states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered has been profoundly undermined. 

Today, the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine has been effected. Kenya is gravely concerned by the announcement made by the Russian Federation to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent states. In our considered view, this action and announcement breaches the territorial integrity of Ukraine. 

We do not deny that there may be serious security concerns in these regions. But they cannot justify today’s recognition of these regions as independent states -- not when there are multiple diplomatic tracks available and underway that have the ability to offer peaceful solutions. 

Mr. President, 

This situation echoes our history. 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. 

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, we agreed that we would settle for the borders that we inherited, but we would still pursue continental political, economic, and legal integration. Rather than form nations that looked ever backwards into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known. We chose to follow the rules of the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations charter, not because our borders satisfied us, but because we wanted something greater, forged in peace. 

We believe that all states formed from empires that have collapsed or retreated have many peoples in them yearning for integration with peoples in neighboring states. This is normal and understandable. After all, who does not want to be joined to their brethren and to make common purpose with them? However, Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force. 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. 

We rejected irredentism and expansionism on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural factors. We reject it again today. Kenya registers its strong concern and opposition to the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. We further strongly condemn the trend in the last few decades of powerful states, including members of this Security Council, breaching international law with little regard. 

Multilateralism lies on its deathbed tonight. It has been assaulted today as it as it has been by other powerful states in the recent past. We call on all members to rally behind the Secretary-General in asking him to rally us all to the standard that defends multilateralism. We also call on him to bring his good offices to bear to help the concerned parties resolve this situation by peaceful means. 

Let me conclude, Mr President, by reaffirming Kenya's respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. 

Thank you. 

The speech was delivered on February 22, 2022, at the UN Headquarters in New York