Our Diplomats Are Pawns of Local Capitalists [opinion]

NAMIBIAN diplomats and former diplomats recently congregated in Swakopmund to attend the “Heads of Mission Conference” themed “Enhancing Economic Diplomacy in Pursuance of Namibia’s Foreign Policy.”

Youth leader Julius Nyerere Namoloh made this brave observation on Facebook “It’s unfortunate that of all 31 Namibia heads of diplomatic missions none of them is below the age of 50. Pathetic if one is to look at the example of South Africa. It is time the country inject new blood in our diplomatic mission.”

To understand Namoloh’s dismay, one needs to appreciate foreign policy in general and Namibia’s in particular. In doing so, it becomes clear that the problem is bigger than meets the eye.

A foreign policy is a strategy pursued by states in dealing, reacting and interacting with other states designed to achieve national objectives. Of many factors influencing the making of foreign policy, domestic environment is its primary context.

To implement foreign policy, states make use of diplomacy an established method by which state officials articulate their foreign policy objectives and co-ordinate their efforts to influence the decisions and behaviour of other states through dialogue, negotiations and other means.

Namibian foreign policy should be understood in this context. When asked about our foreign policy, foreign affairs bureaucrats quickly jump to article 96 of our Constitution listing non-alignment policy, international cooperation, peace and security, mutual beneficial relations, international law and peaceful settlement of international disputes as principles of our foreign policy.

Next refuge is the 2004 document – the White Paper on Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Management – which prescribes and compartmentalises Namibia’s foreign policy as focussing on economic diplomacy. This 11-year-old document was allegedly written by a retired Indian diplomat.

Serious analysis of this document will bring you to one conclusion Namibia’s foreign policy pursues capitalist objectives. Foreign affairs placed the NDP4 on the head of mission conference agenda. That NDP4 says nothing or little on foreign policy is perhaps not the point. The neoliberal NDP4 talks of instrumentalising the private sector – through the PPP (public-private- partnership) principle – effectively dwarfing the interventionist state.

The constitutional basis of our foreign policy is also suspect. Namibia has no documented non-alignment policy even if it existed, it would be irrelevant in modern international relations given the end of the Cold War. Cooperation, peace and security and all those mentioned in article 96 are a bootlegging of the UN charter. These are, anyway, upheld by both SADC and AU charters.

That our foreign policy has been reduced to pursue capitalist’s objectives at the expense of a robust foreign policy is no pedestrian analysis just read the text guiding our foreign policy. To avoid misunderstanding, notice that the importance of economic diplomacy is well acknowledged.

It is the reduction of our foreign policy to capitalist objectives that is a political miscalculation and disservice to our people. Economic diplomacy should not be an end, but a means to an end.

To foreign affairs bureaucrats, the interaction between diplomats and institutions like Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Chamber of Mines, Nambrew and others at the conference constitutes Namibia’s needs, to be pursued through economic diplomacy. In short, the message to our diplomats is: look for business and link local capitalists to international capitalists – regrettable indeed.

Our foreign policy basis must be Afrocentric, prioritising “the needs and concerns of people first, and consider the long-term implications of any foreign policy for the masses of the people” as argued by Professor Serie McDougal of San Francisco State University. Emphasis must be on a people as a whole, not a few capitalists closer to power.

A relook, redefinition and redirection of our foreign policy is urgent and important at least in six respects. Firstly, it will see our diplomats hammering out deals resolutely dealing with our loitering and idling youth who could be sent to various countries as volunteers for exposure, skills and remittance. It is no accident that American youth are in peaceful Namibia through ‘Peace Corps’ as volunteers.

Secondly, it will lead to sending thousands of youth for sports training in successful sporting countries. Third, it will end the over-reliance and limiting foreign policy aisory to individuals – by establishing a Foreign Policy Aisory Council consisting of experts and diplomats with required skills and competence. Fourth, it will lead to the promotion of Namibian values, ideas and norms – these are important in international relations. If you disagree, tell us what German organisations – FES and KAS – are doing in Namibia. Fifth, it will assess the context and relevance of article 96 in current international politics. Lastly, it will attend to the Indian authored white paper by assessing its merits and obvious demerits.

If this does not take place, our foreign policy will remain an instrument in the hands of capital. Our diplomats, scandalously so, will remain pawns of local capitalists.

*Job Shipululo Amupanda is a leftist youth from Omaalala village in northern Namibia.nbsp

Source : The Namibian