Home NewsInternational We Look to Africa To Stand with Us – Pleads Ukrainian IPU Delegation in Kigali

We Look to Africa To Stand with Us – Pleads Ukrainian IPU Delegation in Kigali

by Vincent Gasana
8:00 pm

Ukrainian delegation at IPU-Kigali

Ukraine to Rwanda, is no one’s idea of an easy journey, at the best of times. In the midst of a war that has forced the closure of all the country’s airports, it was always going to be even more arduous. But it is a trip the Ukrainian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), held in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, felt was worth making.

The main theme for the recently completed 145th IPU meeting in Kigali, to be considered by the over 1000 of the world’s parliamentarians, and civil society organisations, in attendance, was Gender equality, and gender Sensitive Parliaments, as drivers of change, for a more resilient and peaceful world.

Rwanda, with majority women in parliament, served as an example of what can be achieved, and delegates discussed how the country is attaining female representation, not just in parliament, but across all institutions of government, and beyond.

At the other end of the scale, more than a hundred protesters have reportedly died in Iran, as predominantly female protesters, demonstrate against the country’s restrictions on women, particularly how they dress.

Over the five days of the meeting, delegates discussed the part parliamentarians can play to meet the challenges of environmental degradation, including climate change, human trafficking, and global insecurity.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine featured prominently, with both countries’ delegations welcomed in Kigali.

With all of Ukraine’s airports closed, due to Russian missile bombardment of the country, the Ukraine to Rwanda journey, became something of an odyssey, more reminiscent of the days before the advancement of modern travel, than a twenty-first century journey. There is no direct travel to anywhere, from Ukraine, explained the leader of the Ukrainian delegation, Lesia Vasylenko.

“It’s impossible to come straight from Ukraine, because all the airports in Ukraine have been closed for almost eight months now, because of the Russian missiles, it’s not safe for civilian aviation. We drove for at least ten hours, to the nearest airport, in Poland, and from there, we take the flights with the layovers…”

“This week was especially difficult for me, because starting on Monday, there were bombings in Kyiv, my home city, missiles hitting just two hundred metres from my house. Despite all of this going, having to check on friends and family…whether they were OK, I also had to lead the bureau of women parliamentarians, and the forum of women parliamentarians, and speak on the very important topic of gender equality.”

“But of course, being from Ukraine, as my colleagues will also tell you, we are unfortunately having to speak about these topics, through the prism of war, because that is how see them today.”

“There is nothing I could wish more, than for Russia to stop bombing Ukrainian cities, to stop shooting artillery at peaceful civilians, for them to leave our territory, so that Ukrainian delegation, can continue, like all the other countries in the world, thinking strategically of the future, not just tactically of survival, right here, right now, but strategically, contributing to the long term solutions to global problems, such as bringing more women into decision making, such coping with the problems of climate change, bringing more to the decision making table. Unfortunately, in Ukraine…we have to pause all of that, in order to survive now…”

As a member of one of the IPU committees, as well as leader of her own national delegation, Vasylenko, wanted to remind the world, that Ukrainians have been living with war, for much longer, before the full scale invasion of their country.

“We’ve been living with war for eight years. I am a mother of three children, my oldest child was born one month before the ‘revolution of dignity’ in Ukraine in 2013, and when I speak to him about the war today, and explain why it’s dangerous to be in our home…my children are unable to be at home, because missiles are flying over it…he says, ‘ mum, I know what war is’…and he is absolutely right…”

“My youngest baby is sixteen months old, for half of her life, she hasn’t lived with her mother, because she has been evacuated, and has been in one country, and I have been in another, living in Ukraine, serving my people, and also travelling the world, trying to gather support…I am not able to enjoy motherhood…but I can’t complain, because to be honest, I am much better off than many Ukrainian women, than many Ukrainian families, because at least all of my family, all of my friends, are alive…”

Above all, beyond wishing the war would end, Vasylenko says her country needs support, and not just weaponry.

“Apart from military support, we need humanitarian support. Winter is coming, winter is very cold in Ukraine, and Russia is now hitting all the critical energy infrastructure, power lines, power stations, they are destroying everything…we need automatic generators, we need movable heaters…so that our people, the military, and civilians alike, are kept warm…”

“We need the strength to contain Russia…so that our trade routes are unblocked…so we are able to safely and swiftly move the grain, and other produce that Ukraine has, because despite the war, our farmers have been growing grain…our farmers have been fighting by night, and ploughing by day. They have successfully secured 64million tons of grain, ready to be shipped, ready to be sold, ready to be provided to the United Nations Food Programme…Russia is preventing all that, by blocking all the sea ports, and all the sea routes…”

Africa’s position on the war on Ukraine, has been, and continues to be the subject of much discussion among Western commentators. According to Vasylenko, Ukraine considers Africa an important partner, and the country would like to strengthen existing relationships, and build others for the future.

“Essentially, we would like to have our network of international relations, and international partnerships grow, and we look to Africa, on the international scene, in the UN assembly, we need African votes. They are with us, and I am glad to say that…the UN General Assembly, almost unanimously voted for the support of a resolution, condemning the invasion of Ukrainian territory…and we hope that this kind of support from African countries continues…”

IPU representatives in a photo with President Paul Kagame and Rwandan speaker of parliament and Senate President

The trip to Kigali was, from the Ukrainian delegation’s perspective, worth the effort, if only to be present for the IPU resolution in support of Ukraine, condemning the Russian invasion.

“For the IPU it [the resolution] is revolutionary. This is the second time that the IPU condemns Russia, as an aggressive state. This has never happened, since the United States left the IPU, Russia grew in influence over the countries in the assembly…and generally this organisation has always been considered in Russia’s sphere of interest, now this is more, this organisation, did every single country, every single people, proud today…assembly stood by the values enshrined in its statute, which reflects the provisions of the UN charter…”

Both Ukrainians and Russians, are taking the war to social media, and Vasylenko considers social media an important tool, against disinformation from her opponents.

“This has been the most talked about war, in the history of humanity, because of social media, the technology that is available out there. It has helped Ukraine’s stand, and to get the support we are getting.”

“Every single Ukrainian who is not fighting with weapons on the frontline, are using every minute of the day, to talk about the experience, to talk about what is going on, on the grounds…immediately an attack happens, people are with phones, and sending it all around, and this is how the world knows the truth…These little things, iphones, and other devices, they tell the truth…”

According to news reports today, Russia launched almost 40 rocket attacks against power stations, water supply systems, and other infrastructure, causing widespread power outages.

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