In the midst of heightened tensions as diplomats assemble to negotiate the Iranian nuclear deal, the world stood breathless watching the clock tick towards midnight deadline with no sign of a deal. And with the finer details yet to be resolved nuclear scientists and experts within the foreign policy community had cautioned against another Middle-East war which Israel and its neo-conservative affiliates are pushing for. By dawn, however, breaking news soon emerged of an extraordinary deal signalling intent and compromise from all sides, showcasing the power of diplomacy when peace is given a chance.
Conversely, on that fateful day in 1981 when ‘’Kukoi’’ led an armed rebellion planning to depose the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, few had anticipated the role Senegal was to play in the events that soon followed. As dramatized on this Network, the diplomatic entanglement that was the Senegambia confederation, thus was born forming a closer union. Although short-lived, the merger highlighted shared-history and deep-ties between the sister-republics, and a masterful art in diplomacy by president Jawara in further consolidating power.
Diplomacy, in short, is a form of negotiation and compromise, of a give-and-take, in an attempt at striking an agreement. It is also about shared values between countries and political systems finding commonality on a range of issues. In U.S. foreign policy, diplomacy and war are avenues by which America press its agenda onto others thru its diplomats who use such coercive tools as the threat of war, even as a bluff, in furthering its interest.
In diplomacy, however, experts lie all the time to their host country. Having the front-man say one thing whilst planning something else entirely different. For example, in 1939, with the drums of war beating in Europe, Hitler had a ‘Jewish’ Foreign Minister tasked with negotiating a Pact with the Russians. But as war grew closer, he was fired and placed under arrest, unaware of the NAZI plan.
As globalisation and terrorism encroach on national boundaries, states should react accordingly in understanding diplomacy as a source of peace. It is still troubling watching the demise of Gambia’s diplomatic prowess around the world which states within the periphery had turned to in settling disputes. Prior to Dakar, Banjul was the trusted impartial referee with a foreign policy to match. In recent years, however, deception has blindsided relations, and ultimately with Bissau. In bilateral affairs, rival states value honesty and credibility, but also predictability. Foreign policy should not be reckless, contemptuous, or greedy. And just like financial markets, countries also like certainty, international norms, in that a government will fulfil its promises. African, though, continues to be held hostage amidst tainted leadership obsessed with self-aggrandisement. Fellow Gambians – Yaya Jammeh is unpredictable, duplicitous, and an untrustworthy bandit.
A classic situation manifested in the manner Banjul had mishandled Taipei. Although China is the preeminent trading partner this century, Banjul could have gone for Beijing in a much humane manner in light of all that Taiwan has done for the country. The Gambian leadership took the bold steps and it has reasons for the tactical manoeuvre. However, a well-placed source had signalled to me there was willingness on both sides to engage each other. Understandably, China’s uncompromising stance on the issue of Taiwan was communicated to Banjul in a stern, but honest and friendly manner.
Nevertheless, I’m all for rapprochement resuming ties with Beijing; in fact, I’d encouraged it. That was a screwed diplomatic move by the leadership in Banjul, hence the Gambia is an independent sovereign nation at liberty to chart its own destiny in pursuance of national interest. The country’s relationship with states within the periphery should be of mutual interest aligning programmes and policies designed in Pan-Africanism, of win-win outcomes. Our luck and destinies are inter-linked, and unless Banjul and Dakar quit the zero-sum games wake-up sober to the realities, the world is developing fast elsewhere! States are self-interested actors, and Africa has been further unfortunate with irrational leaders, egoistic, and clueless in that order.
In a fast-paced world shored up by technology, states such as China, Brazil, and Senegal are turning to public diplomacy in an effort to boost their image abroad. Just like a person’s credit history or criminal record, reputation is all a country has in marketing itself internationally. Under President Jawara, the Gambia was consistent in both rhetoric and deed. The country was trusted. Its foreign policy measured. World leaders would visit Banjul impressed by governmental set-up in a separation-of-powers institutional make-up, boosted by a competent and non-partisan civil service.
Modern diplomatic-relations has seen embassies include such non-state experts into postings, as trade and business facilitators, financial experts, tourism gurus, among others. Today, Multinational companies continue to exercise significant clout in the diplomatic system with global assets in excess of trillions of dollars. The IMF has reported that more than half of the world’s top economies are not countries, but global MNCs. In Western Europe, countries have come to learn that for European prosperity to endure all states within the EU should do well too. That shared prosperity formula designed in economic and trade policies ensure European fate and destinies are interdependent. They consult and align policies at the supranational and macro levels so as to breed unison, but in showing strength too.
In an international political system consisting of 195 nation-states, countries around the world continue to improve their global standing, alliances, and wealth, preparing for the challenges ahead. And for the Gambia to realise its developmental objectives, its neighbours must do well too. The Gambia shall always fail in its vision as a highly developed city-state – as long as ‘Cassamance’ continue to pose an existential threat within the periphery. Both Dakar and Banjul must embark on honest diplomacy calling on various factions on the ground, and formulating ways to tackle poverty in the region. The ‘Cassamance’ crisis must be resolved sooner or later, and that pragmatism will allow the Gambia and Senegal to align and coordinate foreign policy on regional issues adding weight to a Senegambia collaboration in international affairs. Both countries can stabilise Guinea Bissau within months if the will is sincere, moving onto Mali in a double-pronged diplomatic and coercive military strategy backed by the African Union. In recent years, however, Guinea Bissau has become a proxy for both countries with Banjul and Dakar meddling in Bissau politics. This is a clear breach of the African Union charter stressing the sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.
In discourse circles, there are people out there opining that war is sometimes a necessity. To them, I ask, how would you justify the killing of children and innocent lives? Wars are not only unnecessary, but unfortunate too. For, diplomacy offers the best chance society has to replace the norm of conflict with that of stability and peace. Through negotiation, dialogue, and compromise, diplomacy offers an alternative to violence, with pillars through which many international problems can be solved.
So, the next time you hear Benjamin Netanyahu’s lies for the urgency to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, or conduct military strikes on Palestine, ask what continuous war has done for Israel in its 70-year history? And anytime your government is caught spending vast sums on its military budget than on social programmes that better the lives of ordinary citizens, conscious people should organise and rise up demanding answers from a dictatorial regime, extenuated by rapid military build-up at the border. There, stood a paranoid leader fuelling regional conflicts in a bid to cancel impending elections – further clinging onto power.
Mr Gibril Saine