The shame and the tragedy of the Ukraine crisis and the international system

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Indeed, on one hand it sounds unthinkable that a country like Russia would invade Ukraine to indiscriminately destroy it in broad daylight without any genuine reason. On the other hand, this has been the unfortunate fact of history where one nation or society takes it upon itself to invade, dominate and destroy another land, far or near. And none is more notorious for such misconduct than the countries of the West, that is, Western Europe and the United States. Among them, they have enslaved, colonised and occupied almost 99% of the earth over the past 500 years until today!

Hence the shame that the Ukraine crisis has exposed is that we have Russia become an invader and a bully yet on the other hand it is being confronted by former and equally current invaders, occupiers and bullies, the West. It is ironic that as the UK and the US are the loudest mouths against Putin, early this month a boatload of Mauritius government officials led a delegation of their citizens to visit the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean where Mauritians were forcefully evicted in 1965 by the UK in order to give the island to the US to set up a naval base there. Until today, Chagos Islands remain under UK and US illegal occupation.

Since 1980, Mauritians, especially the native Chagossians who were forcefully removed from the island, led a determined campaign to get back their land which no Western nation ever gave them even a listening ear. And in February 2019, even though the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2019 as UN Resolution 73/295 demanding UK to withdraw its colonial administration from the islands unconditionally within a period of six months, both the UK and the US continue to hold onto the islands until today.

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This is one of the many instances where Western nations have unleashed brute force against Africa, Asia and South American countries to either fully occupy or to overthrow their leaders. From the Vietnam War to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, Salvador Allende of Chile, or Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam and the murder of Patrice Lumumba, it shows how in uncountable instances, the US and its European allies disregard democracy, human rights and international law as they ravage weaker nations into total subjugation. 

Up until today, the West continues to hold vast amount of power and control such that they practically determine everything between the earth and the sun to the almost total exclusion of the countries of the south. They control international financial and economic institutions as well as maintain the strongest political and military power such that practically they can do anything they wish to do. They can prop up any tyrant or evil regime or remove any leader, no matter how democratically elected, as they wish.

This is why one would notice among these subjugated populations of the South that general ambivalence toward the current crisis in Ukraine. We cannot seem to not only forget the past but also, we are conflicted by the present attitudes of the West. For example, while the US and allies condemn Russia for invading Ukraine, yet these Western countries watch, hence support Israel impose apartheid on Palestine! While they torment Iran for seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, they turn a blind eye to Israel, India and Pakistan which are all fully equipped with unknown nuclear arsenal. The list of contradictions is too many to count which only highlights the double standards and the hypocrisy in the international system hence rendering it weak and ineffective.

What this means is that it has brought a rather difficult complexity to the Russia invasion of Ukraine that is indeed undermining global support! Even countries like India have failed to support the West or call on Russia to back down indicating the difficulty posed by Western double standards. Hence India like many African and Asian countries are wary of standing with them. Under these circumstances, Ukraine will suffer while the entire world stands to lose if this war escalates into more European countries with the potential use of nuclear weapons!

The lessons to learn from this war therefore is to recognise that on one hand the West must take responsibility for the fact that they have pursued a policy over the centuries characterised by irresponsible power play and bullying by the mighty, while disempowering global solidarity for peace, justice and freedom. Otherwise, the current crisis in Ukraine should have seen the entire world revolt against Putin. Unfortunately, this is not the case, at least so far in the so-called Third World countries.

That notwithstanding, it is necessary to state that the actions of Putin are also totally unjustified. The wrongs of the West are no justification for Putin to act like another invader and bully. Putin must be stopped as he does not only endanger Ukrainian lives, but he poses a clear and present existential threat to life on earth! As we call on Putin to step back, it is also necessary to re-emphasise that Israeli apartheid must stop. The occupation of the Chagos Islands by the UK and US must stop. French interference in Africa must stop. The list goes on…

In other words, the overall imperialist designs of both the West and the East must end across the world. Rather, both of them must stand up and speak for true democracy, human rights and stop propping up authoritarian regimes and leaders and funding terrorists and arming rebel groups, if the world is to enjoy peace and progress. The fact is, the East and the West should promote real international solidarity founded on respect for international law. This requires making global trade fair, pay reparations to nations that they had enslaved and colonised, and prevent their companies from unfairly and irresponsibly exploiting the natural resources of poor and weak countries of the South while corrupting their leaders and polluting the environment.

In this regard, it is high time that either the United Nations, the basis of the international system, be completely disbanded or thoroughly restructured since it has proven to be a tool in the hands of its so-called permanent members, hence ineffective in ensuring global peace and security. The current crisis glaringly exposes the untenable contradictions of the UN as only five countries continue to hold the rest of the word at ransom for their own selfish interests. That is, Russia is a permanent Security Council member. Yet it is engaged in direct confrontation with fellow permanent members, UK, US and France. Meanwhile, the fifth member, China has decided to side with Russia. These five permanent members are the ones who are entrusted with the obligation and power to maintain global peace and stability. At this very moment, they are the very threats to global peace and stability.

It is obvious that the US, UK, France, Russia and China do not necessarily care about democracy, human rights and international law. Hence these five countries are not fit to lead the world in securing peace and stability. This therefore requires either they are removed and replaced from that position, or the idea of permanent members is totally abolished. Where these two options are not possible, then the UN itself as the premier institution of the international system should be disbanded. A new global mechanism would have to be sought that should reflect the current realities of the world whole recognising the issues of the past. 

Reform or disband the United Nations for freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Madi Jobarteh is a former radio journalist, deputy director of Tango and currently heads The Gambia chapter of an international pro-democracy organisation.