Kenyan President William Ruto says his country will not apportion blame in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, even though he says the war needs to end to save developing countries from further economic turmoil.
In an interview with German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), Ruto suggested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hurt everyone, but argued he did not agree with dealing with the problem by arming sides. Rather, he argued that the world needs to deal with crises like this by following agreed global laws.
“Maybe it is Russia and Ukraine today. You never know who it is tomorrow if we allow this to go on. Our position has been this can be resolved. We must be a rules-based globe,” he said on Tuesday.
Respect UN Charter
“We must respect the UN Charter. That's the position of Kenya, and not just position of Kenya, that’s the position of the UN and any country that subscribes to the UN Charter.”
Ruto spoke on the side-lines of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, a meeting meant to discuss the scourge of climate change. But like most events these days, the discussions sometimes veered towards Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last year in February, Russia invaded Ukraine in what it said was to ‘de-nazify’ the country. The Western European countries responded by imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting Ukraine. The battle for influence too went to the UN, where Russia has competed with opponents for influential decisions on the conflict.
Ruto said the haggling over decisions has ensured the conflict generates more victims, both direct and indirect.
“There are those who genuinely believe this war should be sorted out, like us, because trying to apportion blame is not the way to go. There are those who are saying this war is at the result of sanctions. And to their credit, yes, the sanctions are having a devastating effect on commodity prices, grain prices, fertiliser prices,” he said.
“On the flip side, there are those who are saying this is not the result of the war. Again, it is true. So, is it the war or is it sanctions? And from where I sit, it doesn't matter whether it is the war or the sanctions. We just need to stop it. Let's find a mechanism to put it to an end so that we can stop the victims of this war increasing.”
Kenya was among the first African countries to condemn Russia’s invasion last year. In a famous speech to the UN Security Council, Dr Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative, said at the time that Moscow ignored the norms of multilateralism and that the attack had stoked “embers of dead empires”.
Voting for Ukraine
Since then, however, the rhetoric from Nairobi has died down, albeit with consistency in voting for Ukraine.
Last month, Kenya joined 141 UN member states to vote for a UN General Assembly (UNGA) call to demand Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine. The move earned Kyiv international backing against Moscow, but it didn’t have legal strength.
Kenya’s standing-out has been at odds with neighbours who have mostly abstained or even left voting halls during deliberations on Russia. Uganda, just like last year, abstained in last month’s vote and so did South Africa, which explained the UNGA vote wasn’t helping bring parties closer to a solution. Uganda abstained just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni by phone about their bilateral ties.
Take conflict seriously
Ruto says the world must take the conflict seriously, but also accused the West of roping the world in certain conflicts only to abandon them when it comes to Africa’s problems.
“I don't think we should continue to take this lightly. I think there is more that needs to be done so that we can stem the hazardous and possibly the existential threat of humanity that this war could possibly pose.
“When it is our issues, it is our issues. When it is other people's issues, it is global issues.”