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a postcolonial perspective

Fanning 'the embers of dead empires' will never lead to peace, Kenyan UN ambassador says of Ukraine crisis

Ambassador Martin Kimani, who represents Kenya on the United Nations Security Council, offered a powerful plea for peace on Tuesday after Russia announced it would recognize and deploy troops to breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

Read the transcript below:

"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.

"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. 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 backwards into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known.

"We chose to follow the rules of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Charter, not because our borders satisfied us, but because we wanted something greater, forged in peace.

"We believe that all states formed from empires that have collapsed or retreated have many peoples in them yearning for integration with peoples in neighboring 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?

"However, Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force. 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. We rejected irredentism and expansionism on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural factors. We reject it again today."