Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the biggest hostilities between Moscow and the West. Moscow’s history of aggression makes it a dangerous and unpredictable neighbour for its neighbours in the Baltic states in north-eastern Europe. The invasion of Ukraine is unjustifiable and evil, and it must be challenged. We must refrain from adopting an apologist mentality; to adopt neutrality and look away when a weaker nation is being bullied by a stronger neighbour is complicity. They say some things we must always be unable to bear; some things we must never stop refusing to bear. In situations of injustice and outrage, we must always refuse to be accomplices.
One would have thought Russia’s violation of international law and invasion of its weaker neighbour Ukraine was clearly wrong and would be universally condemned, but not in the eyes of many African states. It seems the only time most Africans think about injustice is when it happens to them personally.
It is double standards for Africa to complain and purport to hate the West because of its role in colonialism but go on to embrace Russian colonial mentality because in this case we do not like the victim. In keeping silent about the Russian occupation of a sovereign state, in excusing Russia’s colonisation of Ukraine we are implanting the idea that militarily powerful nations can forcefully dictate policy on weaker nations and invade them at will should their commands be ignored or resisted, and such policy will rise many-fold in the future, and Africa will neither be excused nor safe from the consequences.
Delusions of a saintly Russia supposedly protecting Russian interests in Ukraine cannot be taken seriously to justify its occupation of any part of a sovereign Ukraine. While we understand Russia’s concerns of NATO expansion to former Soviet member states, questions must be asked of why most of Russia’s neighbours are worried about Russia and seeking security from EU and NATO membership. In any case why should these sovereign states not be free to choose their allies?
We need to remind ourselves that when we neither challenge nor reproach evildoers, we are effectively ripping the foundations of justice, evildoers, not victims, are empowered; when civilian authority is surrendered to military powers, civilian law becomes mute in the face of military power, and we are leaving militarily weaker nations exposed to the mechanisation of militarily stronger nations.
Constructing a perfect Russia in our minds when we can see the reality of its aggression on the face of earth is not helpful to the long-term safety of Africa; pretending to be unsure and being uncertain of where we should stand in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine is a vile stance that betrays justice; Russia has invaded Ukraine, a sovereign state, and that is inexcusable.
Good friendship is not only about standing in support of each other, but also showing responsibility and wisdom, it is thus important that we stand for the truth; a safe future for all will be built on the foundation of truth where wrong is seen as such and condemned no matter who the culprit and victims are. I refer to Joe Biden’s 1980s speech below to congress against apartheid in SA; people must make clear that they cannot support repulsive behaviour.
In our deep sense of responsibility to the world, can someone explain to the public what Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group are doing in central Africa and why they should be tolerated while Western engagement in Africa is supposed to be frowned upon? Why is Russia’s invasion and colonisation of Ukraine privately glorified while in public it is only eliciting a position of neutrality from African leadership when Western colonisation of Africa was wrong, and rightly so?
Selective outrage and recollection, if only to excuse Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine, is disturbing. The story of Russia liberating Africa from the evil West has been told many times that it is almost taken for the truth when nothing can be further from the truth. The truth is that the USSR (of which both Russia and Ukraine were members), and not Russia, supported the efforts of African liberation movements with arms in their fight against colonial regimes.
Ukraine is a sovereign state, and it has the right to choose its allies. Russia’s concerns of the rights of Russian speaking Ukrainian citizens may be legitimate but that certainly does not justify its military invasion and occupation. Africa experienced the brutality of colonialism, and it cannot be seen to be excusing such acts of inhumanity; we must not pretend it is not clear that Russia has violated borders of a sovereign state and committing atrocities in the name of protecting Russians in Ukraine. Our silence and/ or neutrality and associated inaction and indifference is making it possible for Russian evil to triumph.