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Historian Samuel Adu-Gyamfi explains how the Russia-Ukraine conflict has exposed the hypocrisy at the heart of Western 'liberalism' – and why Africa needs to break off its Eurocentric chains.


The 1789 French Revolution bequeathed to the world the idea of liberté, égalité, fraternité.

This ideal has been championed by the West – and forms the basis of the social framework they believe the world should live by.

Unfortunately, liberty, equality and fraternity are not demonstrable in countries that are supposed to be part of the Western order.

The bigger ones like Britain and the United States have been found guilty and wanting on the scales of liberty, equality and fraternity especially when it comes to the invasion of countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria.

The reason for such invasions is often part of a subtle agenda to position puppets and further exploit the available natural resources.

We've seen this on both sides recently with the war in Ukraine, a country that not only feeds much of Europe (and large swathes of Africa) but provides much of the world’s energy and mineral requirements. 

Both Russia and the West need Ukraine and are heavily invested in ‘securing’ it for their side.

Whatever the cause of the war in Ukraine, the spirit of European ‘fraternity’ is definitely absent from that conflict.

This clearly proves European ideals are not the benchmark that Africa must swallow hook, line and sinker.

In truth, the West is less concerned with European brotherhood and more concerned with the maintenance of the so-called 'liberal international order'.

With its roots in the enlightenment and the industrial revolution that spurred Britain and, later, America, to world domination, it has been driven by a deep sense of developmental logic.  

One may wonder why Africa wants to hold on to principles that have contributed nothing but wars and abuses of power, and which have made Africa a 'puppet' to Eurocentric doctrines.

For starters, there is money to be made by dancing to the West’s tune.

Britain, for instance, announced in April that it had paid Paul Kagame’s Rwanda $158 million to allegedly manage the processing of asylum seekers on its behalf.

But why would Kagame agree to this, money aside?

Is the Rwandan president, who is reportedly looking into similar deals with other European powers, trying to make himself indispensable to the West at a time of increased scrutiny over his own human rights record?

Rwandan President Paul Kagame waves during a celebration of the liberation anniversary in Muhanga Rwanda on July 4, 2018

The West is known to engage in double dealings with different states when it satisfies specific national interests.

In many instances, the West has been accused of propagating mischief while they aim at operationalising virtue.

For instance, the US, the biggest proponent of ‘liberalism’, has been accused of imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe for human rights abuses while supplying Uganda’s repressive government with arms.

The Western order is based on such hypocrisy.

Western leaders preach about Ukrainian ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ for example, while simultaneously denying their own citizens their constitutionally guaranteed liberties.

In Canada, for instance, so-called ‘unvaccinated’ Canadians are banned from leaving their own country, yet unvaccinated Ukrainians are welcomed with open arms.

On the global stage, meanwhile, we’ve seen the West denounce Putin as a 'war criminal' for invading Ukraine.

But the Western powers are themselves responsible for war crimes against Africa and the Middle East.

If Putin is to be punished for the crime of killing Ukrainian civilians – then what about George Bush and Tony Blair for Iraq?

Libya is now a failed state because of Barack Obama’s interference in North Africa.

The mineral-rich Congo, with its large deposits of gold, diamond, cobalt, tin, manganese, silver and coal among others, has also suffered from plunder and outsider interference ever since its independence leader, Patrice Lumumba, was ousted in a Western-inspired coup in 1960. 

And while we are calling for investigations, why don’t we investigate the numerous ethnic conflicts the West has instigated in order to siphon resources from Africa?

The West’s interference in political sovereignty has led to countless coups and coup d’états across the continent – and beyond.

Underdevelopment, conflicts, refugee situations are the characteristics that the West uses to describe Africa.

However, these features are increasing thanks to the disruption caused by Western-imposed sanctions on Russia, not to mention the devastating restrictions its leaders strong-armed their African counterparts into adopting over the past two years.

The emerging disorder in the West is an indication that Africa must break away from some of the doctrines that it preaches, and of course her own destiny instead.

There is a direct and sometimes subterraneous attempt to argue that Russia’s attempt at weakening the infiltration of Western ideals close to its borders should empower African countries to adopt stringent measures that will safeguard her indigenous identity.

This is not to argue that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is called for.

The attack was irresponsible and Putin will probably pay for his actions.

It is becoming clearer, though, that Russia and China may be establishing a new ‘world order’. 

The question is, which of these competing 'world order' are our leaders planning to saddle us to? The need for Africa to develop her own world order accompanied by strong, independent, democratic multilateral institutions cannot be gainsaid.

But what are the real reasons for Africa to rethink the West?

Firstly, we need to have a keen discussion on what human rights are. Human rights are essentially the privileges a person enjoys by virtue of being human irrespective of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, and any other distinction, like health status.

But why are human rights always defined according to Western social mores?

What do human rights mean when the vast majority of Africans are living below the poverty line?

In the face of inadequate access to food, security, shelter, and healthcare, what do human rights mean?

Recently, the United Nations (UN) passed a vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on the basis of ‘war crimes’.

Several African countries abstained or voted against the resolution.

It is quite clear that we are not really interested in what happens in the West except when we are interested in pleasing our puppet masters.

Also, the West has been trying hard to push forward its globalist agenda.

But the West needs to understand that creating a single narrative by which all must abide is not ideal.

Before colonisation, Africa had its own way of doing things.

Across the continent, there were various political systems which were vibrant. For instance, the empires of Asante, Yoruba, and Dahomey had experienced great achievements before the coming of the Europeans.

The slave trade, colonialism, and massive resource exploitation are some of the legacies Africa has had to deal with as a result of contact with the Europeans.

However, it is equally important to note that Africa’s engagement with the West has not been universally negative, but it is imperative that Africa unshackles herself from those bonds in order to thrive.

Africa’s ingenious growth had been truncated with the emergence of European ideals.

Democracy – which the West preaches as the best form of governance – has failed terribly in Africa and the West does not want to admit it.

Democracy should bring about development and not a winner-takes-all affair as has been evident in Africa over the years.

Western-imposed Structural Adjustment Programmes have further underdeveloped Africa, as have more recent imports like lockdowns, travel bans and vaccine mandates – pushed on Africa by Western-dominated institutions.

The West has had many more years to perfect their development ideologies and imposed them on Africans without allowing Africa’s indigenous knowledge systems and positive ideas from elsewhere to accentuate the gains of the people.

Certainly, Africans will not shy away from Russia, nor will they have the opportunity to delink themselves from the West.

It should try as much as possible to rethink the relationship with the West and understand that there are no saints in Western governments and their ideologies are not sacrosanct.

Samuel Adu-Gyamfi is an historian and senior lecturer at Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. 

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