Thursday, October 1, 2015

Vladimir Putin’s 70th UNGA Speech: For Malawi, Africa to Learn and the West to Heed

       Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster.—Vladimir Putin

OBSERVABLY fed up with the West’s holier-than-thou attitude, Russian President Vladimir Putin told it as it is in the 70th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that the West’s “aggressive foreign interference” is to blame for the problems experienced in the world particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

Accepted, Vladimir Putin and his Russia have their own fair share of bad things that can, in all honesty, be rightly attributed to them. However, the West is comparatively worse. This is not to say that the West is entirely depraved; no, not at all. The West is, in many important respects, a friend in time of need.

Recent geopolitical events have shade more light on the fact that the West is supportive on one hand and destructive on the other. Vladimir Putin, arguably the West’s arch geopolitical foe, highlighted in his speech at UN General Assembly the three big problems that speak volumes of the destructive nature of the West.
Mugabe addressing the 70th UN General Assembly

Firstly, Putin bemoaned the West’s self-deceit policies and its belief in its exceptionality and impunity. He spoke: “Indeed, policies based on self-deceit and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.” While the element of the West’s policies of self-deceit may be of remote relevance to the problems bedeviling Malawi and Africa, it would be too presumptive to say the same about the West’s belief in itself being exceptional.

True to Putin’s observation, the West is so mad in its belief about its exceptionality. In whatever business the West transacts, one readily feels the air of condescension coming from it; it sees itself as more important, more knowledge, much better predisposed to solving crises than anyone in the world. One wonders if it is the case that God made the West the only intelligent people on the planet. Suffice it to say that the West always wants to be the epicenter of everything. To boot, it is no wonder then that the media in the West is awash with accusations of arrogance on the part of Zuma for keeping talking on the phone when Obama, during lunchhour at the 70th UNGA, walked to him and joked. And, writing about the Zuma-Obama incident, one of the West’s newspaper headline goes blazing: “Who’s more important than Obama to Zuma.”

Secondly, the Russian President regretted the West’s continued acts of undermining other states’ sovereignty. The West constantly presents itself as a beacon of true democracy yet what it does is a direct opposite of what it preaches, what a paradox!. Putin, though sometimes a devil himself, hit the nail: “What is the state sovereignty, after all, that has been mentioned by our colleagues here? It is basically about freedom and the right to choose freely one’s own future for every person, nation and state.”

It is no secret that indeed the West deliberately undermines the sovereignty of other national states to the defiance of clear international laws. Examples are too numerous to mention here only to say that Iraq, Libya, and now Syria quickly come to mind. History has a rich memory of the West’s regrettable foreign interventionist conduct that has only ended up denying the citizens the freedom to choose its destiny and the chance to freely choose a nation and a state of their liking.

Lastly, the KGB-turned-president lamented the West’s imposition of development models on other countries especially those in Africa. On this point, Putin movingly appealed;
         Every term in international law and international affairs should be clear, transparent and have uniformly understood criteria. We are all different, and we should respect that. No one has to conform to a single development model that someone has once and for all recognized as the only right one. We should all remember that our past has taught us.

It is tempting to copy wholesale a tried and tested development model that works wonders, and there may be no harm in doing so, but, and this is a big but, there is always a compelling need to reflect back on our history before we do so. As Putin rightly puts it, we should and must remember the free lessons from our past. Mother Nature has not given unequivocal guarantees that what works in the West will also work in Malawi or Africa. Nonetheless, what works in the West, with proper indigenizing mechanisms, may well work in Malawi or Africa.

The point here is that it is not bad for Malawi and Africa in general to copy the West’s right development model neither is it bad for the West to recommend a right development model for the developing countries. What is bad, and this is what Putin is saying, is the West’s unrelenting push for the developing countries to conform to what it considers a “right” development model. Again, what is bad is the developing countries’ naivety to, for lack of a better word, copy and paste the West’s “right” development model.

To this end, the West’s aid conditionalities are as much to blame in this respect as Africa is in its alacrity to accepting the same. The West must take heed of this advice that their aid is only as good when the targeted countries are given the leeway, as guided by their respective historical backgrounds, to channel the aid to areas where its effect will be better and lasting. Africa and Malawi in particular should stop the copy-and-paste tendency when it comes to development models.

For, surely, as long as the West’s past retains no resemblance whatsoever to Malawi’s and Africa’s, there can be no meaningful move towards progress. So, let’s get the aid where possible but let’s use it in priority areas that our past has directed us to. As we bash Vladimir for being a devil himself, let’s not forget to pat him on the back for being an angel, at least for once here.

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