To all African admirers of Putin the Great

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
9 min readApr 10, 2022

If the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates into a major world conflict, blame Kenya.

Days before President Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine, the Kenyan ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, stood up at the emergency session of the U.N. Security Council to warm Russia to desist from attacking its neighbor.

He started by blaming the world’s instability on powerful countries that assault the United Nations Charter by pursuing objectives that run counter to international peace and security. In that line, Kimani must be referring to dozens and dozens of invasions of weaker countries by the US, Britain, France, Russia and other countries, sometimes with U.N. approval, sometimes, unilaterally.

“Kenya and almost every African country was birthed by the ending of empire,” Kimani said. “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.”

Ambassador Kimani said that Kenya and other African countries chose a different path by accepting the borders drawn by European empires “rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia… because we wanted something greater, forged in peace.” He continued, “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.”

Even though Russia was not involved in colonizing Africa, the phrase that must have touched Putin most was “dead empires.” Putin has always been allergic to any reference of Russia as a dead empire.

If Putin had plans to pull back, the harsh Kenyan warning was enough to trigger his determination to go into Ukraine. In 1973, Putin trained African freedom fighters in Tanzania as a KGB agent. During his stay in Africa, he must have heard that whenever a snake failed to bite, kids would use it to…

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Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of "This American Life Sef."