Afe for Vanguard

April 27, 2022

Ongoing Ukrainian war: A special appeal to African Union through President Muhammadu Buhari

Proliferation of universities despite government’s poor funding of varsities (2)

By Aare Afe Babalola

SINCE the commencement of the unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the world had held its breath on the possible outcome: Is Russia on the verge of wiping out Ukraine in an unreasonable campaign mostly directed at the civilian population?

According to a CNN report published on Monday, April 25, 2022, the Russian forces struck five railway stations in Ukraine, essentially further disabling any attempt by Ukrainians to escape the horrors.

However, earlier this month, it was reported that at least 50 people, including five children, were killed after Russian forces carried out a missile strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, which was being used by civilians trying to flee the fighting. Also, earlier in the week, an elderly Ukrainian woman was interviewed by the BBC.

The report stated that a Russian rocket wedged into the yard of her home with the rocket’s tail sticking out. The woman noted thus: “I heard it land in my yard. There was fire and smoke everywhere. My lights went off. I jumped out of bed and ran out my house”.

Another elderly woman, who had earlier witnessed the Second World War, narrated her ordeal in both the Second World War and the ongoing Ukrainian war, stating that: “We’d been warned by our retreating soldiers that they would be coming.

So, we hid in the trenches with dry bread in cloth bags. At dawn, they were in our streets, with their horses and machinery, crossing our gardens with machine guns. But there was no mass shelling like there is now. Back in the day, I could run away.

Now I’m old. I can’t anymore. Here’s what I’ll tell you, there is nothing good about war. After the last war [World War Two] what were we left with?” She then added that though the ongoing war and the shelling frightens her, she is unwilling to leave the home she had lived for most of her 91-year life.

These are just few of the horror stories in the ongoing, unprovoked war in Ukraine. In my earlier publication on the ongoing war, I referred to the statement of the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, who in a press statement stated the war crimes being perpetrated by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. For emphasis, I hereby reiterate his unbiased opinion:

“Since launching his unprovoked and unjust war of choice, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine.

We’ve seen numerous credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities. Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centres and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded. 

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Many of the sites Russia’s forces have hit have been clearly identifiable as in-use by civilians. This includes the Mariupol maternity hospital, as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressly noted in a March 11 report.

It also includes a strike that hit a Mariupol theatre, clearly marked with the word “45B8” – Russian for “children” – in huge letters visible from the sky. Putin’s forces used these same tactics in Grozny, Chechnya, and Aleppo, Syria, where they intensified their bombardment of cities to break the will of the people. 

“Their attempt to do so in Ukraine has again shocked the world and, as President Zelenskyy has soberly attested, “bathed the people of Ukraine in blood and tears.” Everyday that Russia’s forces continue their brutal attacks, the number of innocent civilians killed and wounded, including women and children, climbs.

As of March 22, officials in besieged Mariupol said that more than 2,400 civilians had been killed in that city alone. Not including the Mariupol devastation, the United Nations has officially confirmed more than 2,500 civilian casualties, including dead and wounded, and emphasises the actual toll is likely higher.

Last week, I echoed President Biden’s statement, based on the countless accounts and images of destruction and suffering we have all seen, that war crimes had been committed by Putin’s forces in Ukraine. I noted then that the deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime.

I emphasised that Department of State and other U.S. government experts were documenting and assessing potential war crimes in Ukraine. Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine”.

What role can Nigeria and the African Union play? The African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity) is the creation of Heads of African States who, on September 9, 1999, resolved to unite for the purpose of accelerating the process of integration in the continent, play its rightful role in global economy while addressing social, economic, and political problems.

Part of its objectives include encouraging international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing the necessary conditions which will enable Africa to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations.

The first comment of the African Union in the war, perhaps in furtherance of its objective of playing a part in international negotiations, was its Press Release on February 24, 2022, through its current Chair who is also the President of Senegal, President Macky Sall, by which the AU expressed concern “at the very serious and dangerous situation created in Ukraine”, calling on the Russian Federation and other regional and international actors to imperatively respect the rule of law, the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine.

The Chair further urged the two parties to establish an immediate ceasefire and to open political negotiations without delay under the auspices of the United Nations in order to preserve the world from the consequences of planetary conflict, and in the interests of peace and stability in international relations in service of all the peoples of the world.

In another press statement of February 28, the AU stated that “Africans are subjected to shocking racist treatment that violates international law”, and calling on “all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war, notwithstanding their racial identity.”

However, I am of the considered view that the African Union can do more than releasing press statements. In the actual performance of its role of positioning Africa in the global economy and in international negotiations, the voice and impact of the African Union must be heard and felt in the comity of nations. Afterall, the war in Ukraine will, no doubt, cast a long shadow across Africa.

According to a report, there were an estimated 8,000 Moroccans and 5,000 Nigerians studying in Ukraine, and over $4 billion in exports from Ukraine to Africa. The invasion of Ukraine might have a negative impact on African homes in terms of agriculture and food security.

The growing price of oil on global markets, caused by the European crisis, will have a direct influence on transportation costs. In fact, South Africa’s car association anticipates that petrol costs would reach all-time highs in March 2022. Rising costs will make such measures even more controversial in Zambia, which agreed to eliminate gasoline subsidies in order to adhere to post-pandemic debt discussions with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.

Much to the chagrin of the IMF, Nigeria already backed down from its intentions to eliminate gasoline subsidies last month, following planned protests by the labour unions and opposition parties.

In this regard, it is to the benefit of the entire continent that the invasion of Ukraine desists forthwith. Nigeria’s leadership position in the founding of the African Union has given it a reputation as a prominent arbiter in all matters ranging from politics to foreign relations to economics, among others.

I, therefore, implore President Muhammadu Buhari to leverage on Nigeria’s position in the comity of African states to bring the African Union into the centre of negotiations for peace in Ukraine.

The ongoing war will have dire short term and long-term repercussions on the African continent. While the African Union may not be able to donate weapons and relief materials to Ukraine, it can, at least play a role in world peace. In the interest of the African continent, therefore, Nigeria must play an active role in bringing the African Union to facilitating or participating in bilateral peace discussions between Russia and Ukraine.