Beholden to former colonisers

Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

“Traditional diplomacy, practiced by many countries in the pre and post-Cold War Era, has been in rapid decline over the past several years. As a result, the term foreign affairs has become a misnomer, and in modern days, international relationships, cooperation and partnerships are the appropriate terms used to describe our efforts to chart common developmental paths. Given current reality, we cannot continue adhering to old principles of diplomacy by perpetuating the practice of Cold War Era diplomatic practice. Therefore, our
Policy on International Relations must serve our domestic development aspirations.”

Reads a paragraph of the foreword by Namibian Head of State, His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob to Namibia’s 2017 Policy on International Relations and Cooperation. Globally, diplomacy serves as a tool to execute international agendas in the areas of peace-making, trade, war,economics, culture, environment, and human rights. Thus, diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of States. To remain competitive in the diplomatic sphere, Namibia needs to redefine its policy regarding International Diplomacy, by placing greater emphasis on Economic Diplomacy.

This approach definitely gives any country’s foreign or international relations policy a fluid and simplistic approach to international relations, and its definition and understanding. But there’s no way that any foreign policy can be devoid of ideology, and thus based purely on any singular interests of the multiple interests that may exist, like in the case of Namibia with emphasis on Economic Diplomacy. I am tempted to reference in this regards former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in his book, Tony Blair, A Journey.

“The term ‘the West’ is a bit of an old-fashioned throwback to the days when the world was split by Communism but it serves as a shorthand for ‘our’ type of nation: open, democratic, committed to an open market economy, confident militarily and led by the world’s only superpower, the USA. For almost twenty years since 1989, the West set the agenda to which others reacted. Some supported us and some opposed us, but the direction of the globe, the direction to which history appeared to march, seemed chose by us.”

It is now 13 years since Blair left office as British Prime Minister, and 17 years since the publication of this book. But his views can ring as much true today as then. If one should read between the lines, or read this passage with ideological spectacles, it is evident that any country’s foreign policy, Namibia’s own as well, cannot be devoid of ideology. As much as foreign policy experts would make us believe, as to the nature of foreign policy, especially post Glasnost era, with the thawing of cold war between Blair’s West and their would-be allies on the one hand, and the East, then led by the Soviet Union and its allies, among them African countries fighting for liberation, ideology is still very much an important aspect of international relations, and thus in any country’s foreign policy.

There’s no denial that Namibia today maintains friendly relations with countries like Cuba, based on an ideology, which can be traced to the days of Cuba’s policy of internationalism and/or international solidarity, entailing Cuba’s solidarity with Namibia’s quest for liberation. Not to mention some if not all leaders of the liberation struggle disposition towards Marxist-Leninism and/or socialism in a post-colonial free and independent Namibia.

This being the context in which a free and independent Namibia was hatched, and eventually born, it is axiomatic that the country’s foreign policy cannot be ideologically insensitive, let alone devoid of ideological considerations. And as much the country’s other policies in the various sectors of socio-economic endeavour. This is imperative to note so that when Namibia engages in international relations, with other nations and states, she is always on guard, ideologically.

The buzzword of foreign powers, especially of Europe, vis-à-vis the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, most if not all former colonisers of Europe, has been development. One cannot overlook the fact that most of these former agents for development, still defines and drive development, and thus development aid. They are today intricately linked with the European Union. This has been through various successive international legal instruments starting with the Arusha Agreement, Lomé Convention and today the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs). The conventional wisdom of the benefit of this agreements started the development with the decolonisation of the colonies to the modern neo-colonial euphemism of globllisation these days. On top of the agenda was the industrialisation of the ACP countries. Slightly more than half a century since the Arusha Agreement in 1969, the ACP countries remain essentially sources of raw materials for the European Union, with little industrialisation. In this era of seeming globalisation and no ideology. And there’s no indication, let alone reason to believe that in the second half of the century since decolonisation, the ACP countries shall ever achieve industrialisation, not through the EPAs or whatever neo-colonial economic and/or political instruments that may succeed them.

This necessitates that the ACP countries rethink their foreign policy initiatives and instruments, especially vis-à-vis the European Union. It remains to be seen how much the ACP countries can learn from Brexit or forever they shall remain beholden to their non-ideological posture and to their former colonisers.

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