Kenya explains why it skipped vote on Russia-Ukraine relations
Kenya says it stayed away from a vote on whether to debate the actions of the Russian government against Ukraine to avoid escalating tensions and risk diplomatic talks.
Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr Martin Kimani, on Monday night explained that Nairobi had abstained, alongside Gabon and India, because the tensions reflected a potential “cold war” between global powers.
The US government had, on the request of Ukraine, proposed a debate on the UN Security Council on the actions taken by the Russian government near the Ukrainian border, which Washington believes could be a threat to global peace and security.
And when Russia objected to the debate, a vote was placed to decide whether discussions could go on. It failed. As is tradition on the Council, all procedural votes require an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members, whether permanent or non-permanent.
Russia and China opposed the vote and Kenya, Gabon and India abstained, meaning they refused to vote on the matter that was to be discussed under the Open Meeting on Threats to International Peace and Security.
“We did so to reflect our conviction that the main issue in contention here is the impasse between Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and the Russian Federation. We believe that it is imminently solvable and that the diplomatic steps underway already show promise,” the Kenyan envoy told the Council.
“Africa recalls the rejections of compromise, and the search for total victory, that led to the Cold War. We experienced it as a series of hot wars and interventions that deeply damaged our dreams for peace, development, and competent, inclusive government.”
The Cold War refers to the period from immediately after World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when an arms race with the US saw the two powers compete to support warring factions across the world including Africa.
The Kenyan diplomat said Ukraine’s situation is showing similar signs as the US and Nato allies compete with Russia.
Opposed to Russia’s deployment of troops near the border with Ukraine, the US had rallied the Council to speak with “one voice” on what Washington called Russia’s threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“Russia has assembled a massive military force of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN.
“These are combat forces and special forces prepared to conduct offensive actions into Ukraine. This is the largest – this is the largest, hear me clearly – mobilisation of troops in Europe in decades.
“Russia’s military build-up on the border has been paired with extensive new demands and aggressive rhetoric. This is an escalation in a pattern of aggression that we’ve seen from Russia again and again.”
The UK supported the US stance but Russia argued its troops had not left its borders. And India, which also abstained, said both sides had had previous diplomatic talks that could be ruined with an aggressive action at the UN Security Council.
“India’s interest is in finding a solution that can provide for immediate de-escalation of tensions, taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond,” said Indian representative TS Tirumurti.
“It is our considered view that the issue can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue.”
Both Kenya and India said they support the Minsk Agreement and the Normandy format, an informal forum of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia.
Since 2014, when Russia claimed the Crimean Peninsula, the countries had been meeting to resolve a conflict in Donbass, eastern Ukraine. The talks had produced some agreements in Minsk, Belarus, in 2014 and 2015, even though the fighting continued.
One problem had been that Russia considered the conflict entirely in Ukraine and did not feel bound by the agreement’s provision for ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and weapons as well as an exchange of prisoners.