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Russia, Ukraine: What is UN’s relevance? By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Exactly ten days after the world marked this year’s Saint Valentine’s Day, a day set aside for lovers to mark their solidarity and friendship, the world was thrown into a warfare that is beginning to be predicted as the commencement of World War III.

Russia under the dictatorial hold of their long term President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine and commanded the armed forces of his nation to bombard Ukraine from land, sea and air in an effort to annex the country and stop it from enlisting into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The opening verbal salvo from the aggressor in chief, was to warn the West to stay off Ukraine and let him achieve his plot to capture Ukraine. The Western democracies have responded with a rash of sanctions and subtle military aids to Ukraine but they can’t physically fight to stop Russia from having its way.

Incidentally, this ongoing invasion of Ukraine is the first real time war in this contemporary epoch that the rest of humanity are watching the military activities on televisions because of the sophistication of the means of broadcasting through cable television and satellite.

What this means is that the war in Ukraine began by Russia is seriously going to affect billions of people in the world just as those who are several thousands of kilometres away are also nursing the fear of this needless war because of the psychological trauma the violence that is being transmitted will unleash on everyone.

For a start, school kids who would also watch the proceedings of this war will even feel the emotional impacts much more than the elders. The President of the USA was the one who alerted that the long predicted military invasion has commenced. This was how some of us got wind of the war that began on February 24, 2022 when President Putin of Russia ordered his troops to bombard, invade and capture eastern Ukraine.

The President of the United States Mr. Joe Biden in a post on the social media wrote: “President Zelenskyy reached out to me tonight and we just finished speaking. I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the United Nations Security Council. He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Leaders of the G7, and the United States and our Allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia. We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”

Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom also said his nation and British people are praying for Ukraine.  But the truth is that the combatants are right now killing each other inside Ukraine and the videos are actively transmitted to us.

From the publication Psychology Today by Stephanie A. Sarkis, she said watching violent news video can be hazardous to health. She wrote: “When I was an undergrad earning a degree in telecommunication production, I learned of a saying in TV news: “If it bleeds, it leads.” This means the more violent or anxiety-provoking event is, it draws in more viewers.

If you are watching videos of mass shootings or other violent events on TV or online, you are making yourself more prone to developing (or worsening) depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When you watch a violent video of mass shootings and other violence, you increase your chances of developing vicarious traumatization. You are bombarding yourself with violent images while not being able to stop or help. This increases your chances of anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and insomnia. If you have PTSD, viewing these videos can cause an increase of symptoms such as flashbacks.

Repetitive viewing of violent news stories can increase fear and anxiety in viewers, and can even cause people to have increased health issues (Vasterman et al. 2005). In a study by Pfefferbaum, et al. (2014), viewing of disasters on television, particularly terrorism, can increase cases of PTSD, depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and even substance use.

In a study by Ahern et al. (2004), people who watched more television images in the seven days after 9/11 had more PTSD symptoms compared to people who had the least amount of viewing.

The traumatic effects of watching distressing images on the news can have a lasting effect. After the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, adolescents who frequently watched earthquake imagery on the news had a higher rate of probable PTSD at a six-month follow-up (Yeung, et al. 2016)”, she concluded.

The Time Magazine has a comprehensive report of how key nations are responding to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The magazine said countries across the globe have appealed to Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation to protect civilians in the breakaway Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine’s Embassy in London called Putin’s order an “unprovoked war,” adding that Russia is waging “a war against Europe, a war against the whole world.”

Media reports say that explosions have been heard in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, in Kharkiv and other areas of the country.

The Russian president warned against foreign intervention in the unfolding conflict. “To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me,” Putin says.

The UN says: “The Russian president’s announcement came as the United Nations Security Council was holding an emergency meeting over the crisis in Ukraine. Ambassadors from countries including the U.S., the UK and Albania denounced the escalation of the conflict in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine.’’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended the meeting, AP reported, and told Russia: “Stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance.”

The Security Council is chaired by Russia. In a broadcast of the meeting, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, could be heard demanding Russia relinquish its duties as council chair. “Call Putin. Call (Russian foreign minister Sergey) Lavrov to stop aggression.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also lamented that Putin had “ordered that last step.”
“As we are gathered in the council seeking peace, Putin delivered a message of war in total disdain for the responsibility of the council,” she said. “The council will need to act and we will put a resolution on the table tomorrow.”

As the meeting ended, Ukraine’s Kyslytsya told the Russian envoy: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador.”

The USA, which has in the last few days provided blow- by- blow intelligence of the plots of Russia against Ukraine has already responded.

In a statement, U.S. President, Joe Biden, called the attack “unprovoked and unjustified,” saying that Russia has chosen a war “that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”

“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” Biden said.

Biden also tweeted that he had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine.”

The U.S. president added he would be monitoring the situation and will meet with his counterparts in other G7 countries and with U.S. allies in NATO to ensure “a strong united response.”

Ukraine has expressed the desire to join NATO, a move that Putin condemns. NATO can’t physically intervene because the application to enlist in it by Ukraine has yet to be approved and this was the immediate trigger.

This war is not just against Ukraine or Europe but against the relevance or otherwise of the United Nations system which is skewed to favour five Nuclear powers including the current aggressor in Ukraine which is Russia.  To demonstrate how comical the UN system is, as Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian permanent Representative to the UN is the President of the UN General Assembly. The UN has condemned the invasion but the Security Council can’t take military action because Russia has veto power as well as China, which tacitly backs Putin in his aggression against Ukraine.

Whilst we have asked probing questions about the relevance of the UN when just one country with the might to launch Nuclear war can just decide to annex smaller nations and the UN can’t stop it. Why then are the nations united if just five members can decide to go rogue and the Heavens won’t fall? The bloodshed in Ukraine is needless and must stop forthwith.

Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission Of Nigeria.

Strictly Personal

How South Africa, US elections could shape Tshisekedi’s bread in Kinshasa, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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The conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the future of the giant country, and that of President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa could be dramatically altered by two distant elections. The first is South Africa’s May election, and the second is the US presidential vote in November.

A region already in turmoil was plunged into a new crisis when the M23 rebels returned to war after a nine-year hiatus, blaming Kinshasa for reneging on the terms of the political settlement that ended the fighting over a decade ago and for the persecution of the Kinyarwanda-speaking people of the country. That persecution has, in recent months, become a full-on ethnic cleansing campaign.

The M23 has since had its tail high, with a string of military victories that have seen it capture swathes of territory. The long-running, largely ineffective UN peacekeeping force, Monusco, which failed to pacify the region, has begun a phased withdrawal, in the face of popular Congolese anger against it.

The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) was bedevilled by the murkiness of Congolese politics and retreated at the end of 2023 after barely a year.

In Kinshasa, the war rhetoric and accusations and attacks against Rwanda for backing M23 — a charge Kigali denies — has reached fever-high, with President Tshisekedi threatening to march into Rwanda.

That has further inflamed sentiments against Congolese Tutsi, with daily reports and social media videos of lynchings. It also seems to have driven the Kinshasa government into a deeper alliance with FDLR, the largest of the 120 rebel groups in eastern DRC, which comprises elements blamed for the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, and who fled and set up shop in eastern DRC after their defeat by the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

 

In recent weeks, a force from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has stepped in to help the Kinshasa government. Anchored by South Africa, which plans to have nearly 3,000 troops, it is looking to defy an inescapable trend of the past 60 years: Every foreign force has, in the end, lost its shirt in Congo.

Two South African troops have already been lost in shelling of their camp by the M23, and the rebels are alleged to have shot at one of its helicopters.

The two main opposition parties in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance (DA), seen as a largely white party, and radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema, have both been very critical of South Africa’s return to the Congo war theatre. They argue that the South African Defence Forces is a shambles, and the money spent on the DRC intervention would be better invested back home in an economy with the highest unemployment in Africa.

Three months before the election, most polls and analyses project that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) could have its worst performance at the ballot since 1994, when it won power following the end of apartheid.

While it could still win the most votes, it will be less than 50 percent, which will force it to govern as a coalition with parties that oppose its DRC project. A South African withdrawal, or significant cutback, would all but collapse the mission unless Tanzania steps up to the plate.
That is unlikely — at least not until after the October 2025 election. Tanzania, after all, did not join the ill-fated EACRF mission.

A lot would then rest on the US position. The US has flip-flopped on the eastern DRC conflict, bouncing between criticising Rwanda for alleged support of the M23, scolding Kinshasa for aggravation, and playing mediator.

In recent weeks, though, it has cosied up to Tshisekedi, and even briefly whitewashed the FDLR, calling it simply a “negative force,” a move from its previous categorization of it as a terrorist organisation, which seemed to sweep its genocide credentials under the carpet.

Scrambling to stem the shock, the US representative at the United Nations in New York, quickly put the FDLR back into the “terrorist organisation” box.

Regional analysts in East Africa, and many people in Rwanda, think Washington’s posture in DRC is driven by the need to get a slice of its vast precious mineral resources.

They specifically point to the heavily US-backed Lobito Corridor, a 1,344-kilometre railway project linking the Angolan port of Lobito to DRC through Zambia, through several large mineral deposits.

It is also a foil to China’s Road and Belt and would checkmate rival Russia’s further advance towards Southern Africa through a Central African corridor.

Many opinion polls, most of them admittedly shabby, have former US President Donald Trump, who will be the Republican candidate, leading incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden. Trump is an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin and will dismantle many of Biden’s sanctions against Russia, imposed after it invaded Ukraine two years ago. He is unlikely to put a premium on the Lobito Corridor, as Biden has.

But, most of all, Trump, wearing his racist cap, didn’t—and won’t—give a hoot about Africa, and will not lose sleep over the DRC.

With the ANC humiliated at the polls and Biden defeated, the geopolitical dynamics that Tshisekedi has exploited against both M23 and Rwanda could disappear. He could be on the run. M23 would get a leg up and, if took most of eastern DRC, it could well finally seek autonomy.

Or Biden could win, as the more thoughtful American pollsters and commentators predict. And the ANC could lose.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

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Strengthening the state in Somalia, By Chris Oberlack

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In Somalia, the decade-long partnership between the government, the World Bank, and the UN demonstrates how collaboration between humanitarian and development actors is critical to state-building and delivering tangible support to citizens.

Since the collapse of the state three decades ago, Somalia continues to face significant challenges, including high levels of conflict and violence, an unfinished political settlement, weak government institutions, recurrent crises, and significant levels of socioeconomic exclusion.

Today, over 70 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, and approximately a third require humanitarian assistance. In this context, an important factor in the success of this partnership has been the ability to maintain a shared strategic objective to build a more stable and visible state that delivers for Somalis, while strengthening resilience to overcome crises and helping the country address the drivers of fragility that undermine peace and development.

The partnership between the government, UN and World Bank provides support to those in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, while building the capacity of the state to administer and deliver predictable support across the country.

Joint priorities focus on strengthening human capital and enhancing resilience. The key challenge is how to strike the right balance between addressing the vast immediate needs today, and building sustainable country systems and institutions that can last for the long term.

Over the past decade, this partnership has evolved significantly. While many actors channelled short-term assistance outside of state institutions, since the adoption of a provisional constitution in 2012 this partnership deliberately focused on long-term support to Somali government institutions.

This helped pave the way for the debt relief process through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which led to increased development assistance in 2020 through financing from the International Development Association (IDA).

However, the debt relief process coincided with a confluence of shocks – Covid-19, a desert locust outbreak, and heavy floods – that deepened socioeconomic challenges. IDA re-engagement therefore brought crucial development financing to Somalia to complement humanitarian assistance.

In addition, IDA grants enabled the Government to scale-up ‘people-centred’ support and strengthen the capacity, visibility, and presence of the state. Given that the majority of Somalia’s population has grown up without functioning state institutions, this approach has been important to help mend a fractured social contract.

In practice, this means that for several projects, IDA resources have been channelled through the Government to UN agencies and NGOs to deliver World Bank-financed operations. Through this unique approach, the Bank provides predictable development financing and strengthens the Government’s ability to manage a growing development portfolio and respond to shocks.

It leverages the operational presence and capacity of UN agencies to deliver assistance to communities on the ground. This partnership model, representing approximately a quarter of the World Bank’s $2.3 billion portfolio in Somalia, extends across six operations.

For example, the $418 million World Bank-funded “Baxnaano” Project has provided predictable cash transfers to 200,000 families in Somalia with the support of UN agencies. Through the project, WFP delivers emergency cash transfers in response to shocks and Unicef helps build social protection systems that are essential for direct government management of safety net programs in the future.

The Somalia Urban Resilience Project, in collaboration with United Nations Office for Project Services (Unops) and Internal Organisation for Migration (IOM), strengthens local government systems to support service delivery and resilient infrastructure in urban areas, including those hosting internally displaced people. Several other projects, ranging from crisis recovery to health and social protection, also use this operational partnership.

Though there have been challenges in operationalising this approach, collaboration across these sectors is critical to enhance the Government’s capacity to administer services for its citizens moving forward.

Through a joint liaison function, supported by the UN Partnership Facility under the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund and the World Bank’s Somalia Multi-Partner Fund, this partnership has also helped advance the strategic dialogue on shared priorities and ensure close coordination on security and political developments.

The experience in Somalia underscores how operational partnerships can advance the strategic vision to build a more capable state that delivers services for its citizens in a complex FCV context. While there is still a long way to go, the last decade and recent achievements, including the completion of the debt relief process, have shown that significant progress can be made if the Government and international partners align strategic priorities and financing.

Looking ahead, an approach anchored in government leadership and impact-driven partnerships must continue to support Somalia’s state-building journey.

Building on the lessons learned from this partnership – including as part of the World Bank’s new country strategy for Somalia – will be crucial to continue building government institutions, strengthening intergovernmental relations, enhancing resilience to crises, and providing access to basic services to millions of Somalis.

Importantly, this can also provide a roadmap for how governments, the World Bank, and the UN can come together to deliver in other fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Chris Oberlack is UN-World Bank Liaison Officer and Miguel de Corral is Senior Operations Officer, FCV Group, World Bank

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