E O EkeMonday, April 7, 2014
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suppose, the Hutus of Central Africa should be offered a referendum to decide which country to join in the search for peace in this beleaguered part of Africa. Maybe, the Yorubas of Benin Republic should be offered a referendum to decide if they want to join Nigeria. I suggest that the Yorubas of Kwara state of Nigeria be offered a referendum to decide if they would like to join their brothers and sisters in Oyo and Osun states. Of course, the people of Bakassi must be offered a referendum to decide whether they want to be a part of Cameroon or Nigeria. Perhaps, Igbos should be offered a referendum to see, if majority would vote for Biafra and north Nigeria offered a referendum to see if majority would vote for Arewa Islamic state. This is one way to return peace to these troubled regions and Putin has shown that it can be done. Instead of starting armed insurrection, those who wish to leave a country should just conduct a referendum, and see if the majority of the people vote in favour of independence. The result should then be sent to the United Nations general assembly for rectification by simple majority and the people should be allowed to secede. If this method was applied in Sri Lanker recently and Nigeria in 1966, the genocide against the Tamils in Sri lanker and the Igbos during the Nigerian- Biafran war would have been avoided, and Sudan would not have endured 30 years of civil war.

Furthermore, this development also raises issue of ethnic identity and how far it should be allowed to determine nationality. If majority of Igbo speaking people are living in Nigeria should Igbo speaking people of Cameroon for instance, feel more close to them or to their county? What makes a nation; ethnicity or nationality? Is it the values people believe in and share or the primitive and biological constructs which define them? Should nationality be based only on common ethnic identity? If this is the new world, then the world should be ready to redraw its map and we have learnt nothing from history.

The questions are: should the German speaking people of Austria be allowed to join Germany, the French speaking people of Belgium allowed to join France, all Russian speaking people allowed to join Russia and all Hausa speaking people of West Africa allowed joining North Nigeria to form Arewa Islamic Republic? Should all Swahili speaking people of East Africa be allowed to join Kenya? The list is endless. I fear that, in spite of the apparent justice and logic of annexation of Crimea, Russia may have set a precedent, which may have far reaching and unintended repercussions in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this simplistic model does not take into account other constructs on which human beings segregate, like religion, which currents divided brothers and sisters who speak the same language all over the world. When you think of what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, you will understand that common language is not really sufficient reason to belong to the same country.

I am anxious that this may herald the resurgence of toxic ethnic nationalism, of the type Hitler fanned in Germany in the 1930s, and the world has reason to worry how far Putin is prepared to go. How far will Big brother Russia go, in rescuing his smaller brothers scattered all over former countries of the Soviet Union? This is the problem with the solution Putin offers. What would Russia do, if ethnic minority Russians in neighboring countries starts conducting referenda and voting to join Russia and then sending pleas to Russia to annex them? Would Putin grant such right to non-Russian ethnic minorities living in Russia, who may want to leave Russia? Putin has dragged the world back to bigotry, rule of brute force and toxic ethnic nationalism, which enlightenment rescued it.

A world, in which ones ethnicity and religion are the most important identities, would be a very dark, divided and unsafe world, where paranoia, prejudice, injustice and segregation reign supreme. In Putin’s world, Russians deserve justice, no matter the injustice and inhumanity met out to others. This is why Putin’s solution, even though attractive, is very dangerous. It is a slippery slop to a sectarian world, where primitive constructs are most important and it is depressing. Putin has just started another arms race and made an armed confrontation with the west probable. Who knows, the annexation of Crimea may turn out to be when Russia took the first step that would end in a third world war. In the years ahead, NATO countries will re-arm to withstand a resurgent Russia, which is bent on having its way by might. The future of the world does not look bright, unless the Putins of this world have a change of heart.

While the people of Crimea have a right to decide which country to join, the rule of law and due and democratic processes demand that such a right be exercised within the democratic structure of Ukraine, if international treaties and sovereignty mean anything in the face of might. This will be justice. What Russia is saying by annexation of Crimea is simple; only the strong gets justice, if you want justices get powerful and you can literarily do anything you want. I wonder what Iran and North Korea would be thinking. Maybe, if you want peace, respect and justice, prepare for war and get nuclear weapon.

On the other hand, it is sad that America and Europe have leaders who allowed this to happen. They were outsmarted by Russia in Syria and Putin knows that the West will do nothing, if he takes Eastern Ukraine and he will because that has been his plan since he realized that Western Ukraine is pro west. He wants a divided and weakened Ukraine and sadly, he will get his wish. May be now, western leaders will reconsider their reduction in military spending as it is obvious that Russia does not seem to think that the cold war has ended. Today, Britain does not have a single air craft carrier and has cut its defence budget. One of President Obama’s legacies would be that it was under his watch that a resurgent Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Nothing better exemplifies Obama’s weak presidency than a recalcitrant Putin, who stopped him from acting in Syria and resurgence of Russia which is boldly threatening its neigbours. It is almost certain, that because of this, a Republican hawk may be elected the next US president.

So far in his presidency, Obama has scraped America’s space program and failed to show leadership and decisiveness, when they mattered most. This is exactly what China did in the 14 century when it was the world leading Maritime power. The result was that years later it lost the opium war and Hong Kong. At the beginning of the ‘Arab spring’, Obama vacillated. When the people of Benghazi rose up against Murmur Gadaffi, he hesitated and then acquiesced. In Egypt, he stood aside, while the mob toppled Mubarak and installed the Islamic brotherhood. And in Syria, he has only threatened and was out-smarted by Putin, who stopped America from intervening in Syria after Obama’s red line was crossed and helped Assad remain supplied with the weapons he needs. Assad is still holding on to its chemical weapons and America’s dead line for the removal of all biological weapons from Syria has not been met. In his presidency, Obama has demonstrated how little he understands the history and politics of Middle East, how deep the difference run and what some people are prepared to do in the name of religion and ethnic nationalism. With the way Obama has conducted America’s foreign policy under his watch, the next American president would have his work cut out in rebuilding the trust of American allies. The Syrian rebels, Saudi Arabian rulers and Ukrainians, now know that America may only offer words, when action is needed.

Putin annexed Crimea because he read weakness, slow thinking and lack of killer instinct in Obama. If Obama had gone ahead with the missile defense shield planned by George Bush, which would have extended to the borders of Ukraine and acted when Assad crossed the so called red line, which turned out not be any line at all, talk less of having any colour, Putin would not have ceased Crimea in the way and manner he has done. Obama has learnt that a strong power which threatens what it would not do only weakens itself.

President Obama’s misguided belief that giving the impression that one is a peace maker and takes a long time to reach decisions, somehow makes such decisions the best and his apparent inability to demonstrate that peace and democracy are secured by might are his undoing. As Mandela demonstrated, a wise leader knows when to make war and does not waste any opportunity to sue for peace. Obama seems to care too much about how he is seen, instead of the rightness of his convictions. He could not make up his mind whether to be the power that secures the peace or the peace maker, and lost trying to be both. Obama has not demonstrated that he can think on his feet and act swiftly. This is a weakness in a president of a country like America, who needs to react to events in a fast changing world. A lion that is too gentle to make a kill or takes pride in being seen as a vegetarian will starve to death, even though deers and goats will think it is s very kind and good Lion. I hope Obama has not presided over the decline of America and ascendency of Russia. An emboldened Russia would a threat to democracy, human rights, press freedom and individual freedom and might, will be right, in a world dominated by Russia.

President Putin may claim that he has only reclaimed what once belong to Russia, but it raises many uncomfortable questions about the reality, world peace and peaceful co-existence. I hope the parties will give peace a chance by allowing wisdom and not nationalism, to guide.