Can you imagine yourself coming from a two-year COVID-19 Lockdown and immediately be forced into a war with your neighbour?
It is like the proverbial “from the cooking pot into the fire’’. That is how the people of Ukraine feel today.
From the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Centre
By the 25th February 2022, Ukraine’s Covid-19 statistics were as follows:
Confirmed cases : 5,040,518
Deaths : 112,459
Today , 24 th March 2022 is exactly a month since Russia invaded Ukraine ; attacking it by land and sea.
Atleast 6.5million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, 816 civilians killed and 1,684 have been wounded. Many reports of casualties remain unconfirmed. The number of Ukrainian soldiers killed in the multiple front attacks is not known.
For anyone in Africa, Ukraine sounds so far away and many may not know where it is located but thanks to the internet the destruction and the disruption of life is beamed live into our living rooms. The pictures of the most vulnerable: women , children and the elderly escaping the war tear your heart.
I have lived through the civil strife of late the 70s and early 80s in my country, Uganda, to make some observations on wars.
- War is very costly in terms of human lives, it maims people, causes the destruction of infrastructure
- The consequences of any war linger for decades.
- The most affected are the children , women , elderly; war is characterised by extreme violence, aggression , destruction and mortality and morbidity.
- Wars and life threatening conflicts cause mental health problems in the communities.
- Some wars are started because a group wants to put things right and yet end up causing a lot of carnage.
As Ernest Hemingway rightly said in 1946 after World War II: “ Never think that war, no matter how necessary, how justified is not a crime.’’
Last week we watched live in horror the destruction of whole streets in Ukraine, much of it in residential areas!
We can never know the number of people who died.
Lord Rothermere , then a British journalist said in 1917 after WWI : “We’re telling lies, we know we’re telling lies; we don’t publish the truth that we’re losing more officers than the Germans, and that it’s impossible to get through the Western Front.
“ Truth is the first casualty in war.’’ Hiram Johnson, Republican senator in California during WWI claimed.
The actual war at the frontline is always supported with Psychological warfare. The propaganda machine which fights to influence the hearts and minds of the people. It influences the values, beliefs , emotions so as to reduce the opponents’ morale.
With the most advanced weapons like the nuclear arsenal available to Russia, we are all worried that this war could turn into World War III.
Who can forget the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 by USA. It ended Japan’s role in World War II but killed an estimated total of 130,000- 215,000 people . Not forgetting the lingering effects of radiation on the people and environment.
WWII ended in September 1945 after the defeat of the Germans by the Allies. It is now 77 years and there has not been another World war because of the New World Order that was created after the war; to prevent other world wars. These checkmates included the United Nations (1945) and a series of treaties drawn up on how to treat prisoners of war(Geneva Convention) and limiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare.
From the Wikipedia Historical archives
WORLD WAR I
Date June 1914- 1918
Cause: It was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria during the struggle to end the Austro- Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovonia. It set off a chain of events that pitted Germany, Austro –Hungarian , Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Canada, Japan and USA. The allied powers won at a huge cost.
Official deaths: An estimated 16 million deaths of soldiers and civilians. The war also facilitated the spread of the Spanish flu of 1918 that resulted in the death of over 50 million people.
Outcome; The League of Nations was formed( January 10, 1920 ) and it was thought that there would be no more World Wars.
“This is a war to end all wars .’’- Woodrow Wilson 1917. USA President.
WORLD WAR II.
Date: 1st September 1939 – 2nd September 1945.
Cause: It was sparked off by Adolf Hitler of Germany invading Poland to regain lost territory. Great Britain and France declared war against Germany then other countries joined in to stop Germany from invading other European countries. The Soviet Union joined later after Adolf Hitler had breached the Non Aggression pact the two countries had signed in August 1939.
It evolved into a world wide war and became the deadliest military conflict in history. Germany and France lost 80% of the male population of the 15-49 age group!
“We shall fight on the beach,
We shall fight on the landing ground.
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight on the hills ; we shall never surrender.’’- Winston Churchill, 1940. Prime minister of Great Britain.
“ Defend Paris to the last, destroy all bridges over the Seine and devastate the city.’’-Adolf Hitler August 1944.
It ended with the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945: Victory Day.
Deaths: An estimated 50-56 million people both military and civilians and an additional estimated 19-28million deaths from war-related disease and famine.
WWII transformed the USA from a middle global power to the leader of the “ free world’’. Born out of the need to protect the new found power and freedom.
Delegates from 50 countries created the United Nations Charter on 26 June 1945 with the aim of preventing an outbreak of another world war.
Surprisingly, by March 1947, a geopolitical tension had developed between the USA and the Soviet Union. It fanned many other proxy wars in Vietnam, Korea and Angola . The tension lasted until December 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
The dissolution created 14 countries out of the Soviet Union. The Russian President Vladimir Putin often refers to these countries which were once part of the Soviet Union as being Russia’s “ sphere of Influence’’. They include Ukraine. Russia continues to influence the politics of these countries.
Other significant wars include:
The war in Kosovo( 1998-June 1999)
The war is Bosnia(April 1992- December 1995)
The controversial War in Iraq ( March 2003- December 2011)
We seem not to learn from history and keep repeating it because we forget quickly.
Africa has also had its fair share of civil wars. Organised groups within the same country or state fight against each other. There has been an increase in these civil wars.
the root causes include:
- large population and low income levels
- Low rates of economic growth
- Recent political instability
- Poor governance- inconsistent democratic institutions
- Small military establishments that are too weak to defend their territory
- Western powers looking to secure their interests by fomenting conflict.
THE WAR IN MOZAMBIQUE( 1977-1992)
Caused by weak public service delivery , poverty, unemployment, corruption and meddling by world powers and their proxies.
THE WAR IN SUDAN( 1983-Jan 2005)
This is Africa’s longest civil war. It lasted twenty-two years! It started when the military regime tried to impose Sharia law on all Sudan. The South is dominated by Animists and Christians while the North is dominated by Arabs and Moslems. The war was between the central Sudan’s government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. South Sudan became independent in 2011.
THE BIAFRA WAR ( July 1967- January 1970)
This was a Nigerian civil war between the central govt and the South eastern provinces of Nigeria – which had seceded and declared independence from Nigeria as self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. Led by Ojukwu Odumegwu, Biafra surrendered after 30 months of fighting and rejoined Nigeria.
This is a war that Nigerians want to forget. It caused so much destruction, aggression and extreme violence. An estimated 100,000 military deaths while 500,000- 2 million Biafra civilians died of starvation!
THE BUSH WAR OF THE LUWERO TRIANGLE IN UGANDA( Feb 1981 – 25 January 1986)
I lived through this war and this is one period of my life that I want to forget.
The NRA led by Yoweri Museveni fought to overthrow the authoritarian Uganda government led by Milton Obote.
An estimated 500,000 people including combatants and civilians died during this five-year Bush war. Many people were displaced and many of us suffered a lot of fear and anxiety.
THE RWANDAN CIVIL WAR ( October 1, 1990- July 18, 1994)
The rebel, Tutsi- dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front fought against the predominantly Hutu government. The RPF won and formed a new government. The propaganda machinery was at its best: as the Hutus were incited to kill the Tutsis- “Cut down the tall trees’’ while the Tutsi were incited to kill the Hutus: “Crush the cockroaches’’.
The United Nations took long to intervene resulting in an estimated 500,000- 1million deaths of civilians. It is now known as the Rwanda Genocide.
Currently there are many conflicts and wars going on in the world like Libya, South Sudan, Ethiopia.
The most recent and most heart wrenching is the war in the Ukraine that started on the 24 th February 2022, pitting Russia , a super power, against Ukraine, its neighbour. Putin considers Ukraine as “ one of Russia’s spheres of influence’’ since it was originally part of the Soviet Union.
In my simple mind, I feel that many of these wars can be prevented by genuine dialogue and negotiations– finding a path to peace. War is very costly , we can achieve peace through nonviolence. We should all strive for peace not war.
As H.G Wells said in his novel , The War of the Worlds, February 6,2017:
“ If we don’t end war, war will end us.’’
Do you believe that there is no peace without peace of mind? Are you aware that wars and conflicts create a lot of mental health problems in our communities ?