Putin’s amoral war on Africa
Upon being informed that her famished and desperate peasant compatriots could not afford their staple diet of bread, the Queen of France Marie-Antoinette (1755-1799) allegedly retorted – “let them eat cake.”
The dire situation of looming mass starvation was due to harsh, inclement weather and concomitant poor harvests from 1877-1899.
In essence, her callous and cruel message to her fellow citizens, who were being deprived of their daily sustenance through no fault of their own, is on par with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cynical, heartless, response to Africa’s Russia-driven food shortages.
In true megalomaniac fashion, he nonchalantly swatted away alarming concerns, by falsely blaming sanctions imposed on Russia for the portentous catastrophe. Thereby, Putin made a mockery of the debacle and the continent of circa 1.4 billion people.
Putin’s illegal and unprovoked brutal war on Ukraine, now in its fifth dark month, is notable for the level of barbarism carried out by his delinquent invading forces. Their documented war crimes do not end with vicious military attacks on civilian populations and non-military infrastructure within Ukraine. By blockading vital Ukraine seaports, Putin has mounted a savage medieval siege on the country, preventing the shipment of vital grain supplies to the African continent.
Apart from dealing with severe headwinds of COVID-19 ramifications, climate change and excessive globalization, Africa presently has to face the apocalyptic pale horse of famine and its rider, ruthlessly riding roughshod over vast regions of the continent, holding aloft his banner – Vladimir-The-Vicious.
Deadly and dangerous consequences of the conflict are being visited on the African continent. On June 3, Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Chairman of the African Union, met Putin, in Sochi, Russia, to remonstrate with him the serious potential of crisis-level food shortages on the continent, as a result of Russia’s blockade of grain shipments from Ukraine.
According to the BBC on June 20, the European Union’s (EU) foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called Russia’s actions a war crime.“ Speaking to the African Union, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Africa a ‘hostage’ of Russia’s war, because of the effect of rising food prices on the continent.”
The preamble of Article 7 of the Rome Statute 1998 establishing the International Criminal Court states as follows: “For the purpose of this Statute, ‘crime against humanity means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”
The statute includes among the list of crimes against humanity – “inhumane acts intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” According to Article 7 (1) of the Rome Statute, “crimes against humanity do not need to be linked to an armed conflict and can also occur in peacetime, similar to the crime of genocide.”
Furthermore, in order to categorize certain actions as crimes against humanity, the specific intent of the perpetrator is not necessary: “The perpetrator must act with knowledge of the attack against the civilian population and that his/her action is part of that attack.”
Putin and Marie Antoinette share a common criminal men’s rea: both being fully aware of the catastrophic reality of mass death, disease, and suffering which would flow as a direct consequence of their acts of commission and/or omission.
In her October 1793 trial, accusations levied against Marie-Antoinette were that she had squandered the nation’s finances and instigated a civil war in various regions of the republic. She was condemned to death and guillotined on 16 October 1793. Her last words, after accidentally stepping on the foot of her executioner, were “Pardon, monsieur, I did not do it on purpose.” It is not clear whether her apology extended to the countless innocent victims of her egregious immorality. One wonders what excuse Putin will proffer when, God willing, he is ultimately held accountable.
On July 22 2022, under the aegis of the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement that would facilitate the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and in an ongoing hot war, anything can go wrong. The only acceptable solution to protect and safeguard long-term food security in Africa is for Russia to completely cease its unprovoked and unjustified attacks on Ukraine, returning global grain shipments to their pre-invasion levels.
There is ample truth to the well-honed saying: “The devil never sleeps.” Following the EU ban of RT, Russia’s state broadcaster, it has been reported that Russia is keen to establish a hub in Africa. This is indeed an unwelcome and extremely precarious development for our very fragile democracies.
The Himmleresque style of propaganda, sanctioned and promoted, by Pied-Piper-Putin, elevates misinformation and disinformation to a sacrosanct religion. History has demonstrated ad infinitum, that there are no good outcomes to unfettered widespread, weaponized alternative facts.
Mr. Vladimir Putin, I boldly state that Africa needs guaranteed access to food supplies and not a putrid diet of deplorable lies.
Fowler is a Nigerian international lawyer ( LL.M Harvard), human rights advocate, opinion writer and poet.