What is Afrikan Diplomacy?

After what one would assume a marathon of negotiations and various concessions and compromises that would never be made public even as they are made in the interest of the public, President Robert Mugabe, opposition leader and prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai have on behalf of their parties come to an agreement that many are hoping would restore dignity to the people of Zimbabwe and put an end to the mud slide that is the Zimbabwean economy.

As it is in a football match were the “fans” in one breath curse the striker who missed an opportunity to score and in the next minute celebrate his winning goal, President Thambo Mbeki is now in the western media being hailed as an exemplary diplomat who has managed to bring about what the sanctions and the angry rhetoric could not produce. The same man who just weeks earlier was being labeled ineffective is the same one being lauded for his accomplishment (of course one has to wonder if this success will help his own political challenges in his own country).

Is this a case to celebrate though? Has anyone won or for that matter lost as a result of the agreement signed? Zimbabwe ambassador to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku, when asked of the deal told the told the BBC it was a “triumph for African diplomacy.” Is this truly a success of Afrikan diplomacy?

What is Afrikan diplomacy?

Perhaps Afrikan diplomacy means that elections results will no longer be respected and the one in power simply has to refuse to secede and make the one who wins negotiate. If such is the case, then yes, we can mark Zimbabwe a success, as was the case in Kenya. Which then begs the question, what purpose do elections serve if they are simply to be discarded so that leaders are chosen in negotiations? Does this mean other Afrikan heads of state should follow suite. If any other party wins election in Namibia, will SWAPO simply stay in power and hold the country hostage until a negotiated agreement arrives so that the government can be combined and split between those who won and those who refused to leave office. If president dos Santos in Angola looses elections, would he go peacefully and respect the wish of the people or would the head of the AU come in to negotiate an agreement on the election? If Mr. Zuma and the ANC loose an election, will they accept the results or will it be time for another African diplomat to save the day?

Why not dispenses with all the pageantry, all the mirage of “fair and free election” or “democratic process” and simply move to negotiations? From Cairo to the Cape, Libreville to Antananarivo, let’s do away with all elections. This way instead of having election observers, have a group of heads of states whose job is to go around and negotiate power sharing deals and simply leave the people out of the process. Is this what Afrikan diplomacy looks like?

Or perhaps Afrikan diplomacy is the realization that the true and right solution might not always be the best especially if it leads to loss of lives. Perhaps Afrikan diplomacy is the realization and the recognition of the fact that even if the result of an election shows differently, given the choice between a potential blood bath and economic suffering, a negotiated peace would be preferable? Could this be Afrikan diplomacy?

Hopefully an argument or an explanation for what Afrikan diplomacy is and is not, would resemble the following: Afrikan diplomacy is the re-recognition of the importance and worth of the Afrikan being. The belief in the innate ability of Afrikans to find solutions to Afrikan issues. The rejection of the idea that Afrikan are civilized only so far as in relation to and in measurement of Eurocentric standards. Hopefully entwined with in the term “Afrikan diplomacy” is the realization that there exist a stark difference between getting a new flag and a nation being independent and that true independence for Afrika has yet to be attained and cannot be achieved by solitary Afrikan nations.

Nigerian Chief Emeka Anyaoku while serving as Commonwealth Secretary-General was asked to reflect on the topic of Afrikan diplomacy and stated that “African diplomacy is as effective as the governments behind it; and it cannot be effective if the governments behind it are either unstable or lack legitimacy or are infirm of purpose.” Another argument that can be derived from that statement than is that Afrikan diplomacy cannot be used as the pretence to aiding Afrikan leaders stay in power for additional decades, while weakening and subverting the very same principles that they themselves fought for. Afrikan diplomacy is not the continual appeasement of leaders who feel entitled power as they facilitate the destruction of hopes and dreams of those who fought by their side and aborting Afrika’s future. Afrikan diplomacy means nothing if it is simply designed to find short-term solutions and while failing to address the issues that can lead to re-occurance of violence and instability. Issues such as education, economic disparity, recolinisation, effective leadership and governance, lack of visionaries in governments and so on. All of which Afrikans have the knowledge to resolve successfully.

As to whether or not the Zimbabwe solution is a cause to celebrate, that only time will tell. It is further too early to gauge whether or not Tsvangirai will be any different from Mugabe. There is no conclusive evidence that the MDC is a new party that has the best interest of the Zimbabwean people at heart or simply a group of those who oppose the ZanuPF. It is at times easier to fight against something than to fight for something and follow through with the promises made when given the opportunity. It is similarly easy to praise a principle or a process when one agrees with the solution it produces, the test though is whether or not the same people who celebrate today will still see the same process as valid when it does not work in their favour. Perhaps they will, or perhaps they’ll be back to the same question: “What is Afrikan diplomacy?”

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