Kenya invokes colonial past, calls for an amicable end to Russia-Ukraine dispute

Kenya's Permanent Representative to UN Martin Kimani [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya has called out Russia for sending troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine in what Moscow has called a peacekeeping operation.

Kenya Permanent Representative to UN Martin Kimani said Russia’s action amounts to breach of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. In a statement that has won admiration, Kimani invoked Kenya’s and Africa’s colonial history while making a case for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Addressing the UN session, Kimani (pictured) said the situation echoes Kenya’s history.

“Kenya and almost every African country were birthed by the ending of empire,” he said, referencing colonialism.

“Our borders were not of our own drawing,” he told the security council adding that “today across the border of every single African country live our countrymen with whom we share deep bonds.”

An emergency meeting of the security council was called after the announcement made by the Russian Federation to recognise rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent states and ordered the deployment of troops.

“We do not deny that there may be serious security concerns in these regions. But they cannot justify today’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states,” he said and called for diplomatic settlement of the dispute. The UN members criticised what has been termed as the Kremlin’s attempt to reassert control over the former Soviet country.

In a televised national address, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his recognition of the rebel-held areas, and dismissed Ukraine as a failed state, suggesting it was part of Russia.

Kenya’s statement is particularly powerful for equating the situation to Africa. Kimani said 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,” he said.

The UN ambassador pointed out to Russia that Africans had learned to live with borders that cut across historical, cultural and linguistic ties.

He said there would have been war on the African continent had African states chosen to pursue ethnic, racial, or religious homogeneity.

“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 backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said.

Kenya’s statement underscored its empathy for the people living in empires that have collapsed and retreated, who yearned for integration with their people in neighbouring 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?” He posed. The gripe was in the manner Russia was pursuing this integration by force.