Liberty: How decolonisation changed the course of history

Jamhuri Day

Members of a Kenyan guard of honour position themselves during Jamhuri Day at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, on December 12, 2020. 

Photo credit: Patrick Meinhardt |AFP

What you need to know:

  • As a result, only those countries, which were not ready to hand over the reins of power to the representatives of the colonised nations abstained in the vote.

Today, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 1514 (XV) at the initiative of the Soviet Union in 1960.

The adoption of this document has changed the course of history to enable tens of millions of men and women around the world to liberate themselves from colonial oppression and build their own free and dignified future.

It must be emphasised that the dismantlement of the colonial system was a direct consequence of the Great Victory of the Soviet Union, together with its allies, in the war against Nazism in May 1945, which enabled the creation of the United Nations and the establishment of a new, democratic and equitable world order based on international law.

The significance of the Declaration for the nations of Africa, and Kenya in particular (who achieved full independence three years later), cannot be overestimated, because it laid the political and legal foundation for their national emancipation and development.

Although the inevitability of decolonisation was quite obvious in the 1960s, only through concerted actions of Moscow and its friends the process leading to the adoption of the Declaration was successfully launched.

As a result, only those countries, which were not ready to hand over the reins of power to the representatives of the colonised nations abstained in the vote. But the moral and political impact of the document was so great that even they could not ignore the main provisions of the document that stipulated that the “subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation”.

Built ‘Russia Hospital’ in Kisumu

On this day, I am proud to say that my country (then the Soviet Union) played a major role in the process of decolonisation by providing support for the peoples struggling for their independence and offered comprehensive assistance to the young states, including Kenya.

It is noteworthy that while presenting the Declaration at the 15th session of the General Assembly, the Head of the Soviet Delegation in the part of the speech concerning Africans’ fight for their freedom mentioned Kenya first among the colonies whose peoples were “fighting an increasingly stubborn battle for their rights”.

 In the United Nations, my country spared no efforts to create favourable conditions for the implementation of the declaration, which brought with it a number of related UN resolutions, in particular, on the sovereign rights of states to dispose of their own wealth and natural resources.

This document opened the way to the real economic self-determination of the liberated states. Today, it is the moral duty of the international community to preserve the truth about colonialism and its effects on the economies of the colonised nations, because even now, 60 years since the adoption of the declaration, we must admit that decolonisation has not been completed.

 There are still countries and territories under foreign or neocolonial domination, and vestiges of the old system continue to manifest themselves in distorted development and exploitation.

Just like in 1960, when we strengthened ourselves with the struggles of the peoples of Africa and other continents by providing political and economic support in achieving independence and building their own nations and economies, Russia continues to assist them to strengthen their capacity to face new threats and challenges.

The Covid-19 pandemic is obviously the most disastrous of them. And just a few days ago, the Russian Federation contributed Sh110 million to the United Nations Development Programme to fund the project “Strengthening Covid-19 Response for Kenya: Preparedness, Response and Recovery”. It is symbolic that the project has a component to support the Kisumu Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital popularly known as “Russia Hospital” that the Soviet Union built in 1969 to strengthen its response capacity and medical waste management.

This demonstrates the continuity and consistency of Russia’s policy to help our friends in addressing the most pressing issues.