From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Sep 13 2011 - 11:50:37 EDT
Paralysis and indifference at the heart of British policy towards the Horn
September 13, 2011
When it comes to foreign policy and diplomacy few countries in the world
today have such a breadth and depth of experience as does Britain. Centuries
of commercial, military and imperial adventures has meant that policy
decisions taken in London have impacted on nearly every corner of the globe.
Much of Britain's influence has been positive, or at the very least well
intentioned, some benign, but there have been other episodes where London's
machinations have proved to be corrosive and at times destructive.
Post-1956 and the Suez Crisis Britain has endeavoured to shore up its
position by slavishly following the quixotic foreign policy of the United
States of America whilst simultaneously seeking safety in numbers by working
in concert with fellow members of the European Union. Sadly these days those
in London who are meant to formulate and oversee foreign affairs live in
fear of initiating anything of purpose lest it show an independence of mind.
Britain's diplomats in training and regional specialist surrounded by the
imperial grandeur of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) cringe before
the altar of political correctness whilst viewing the world through the
prism of post-imperial guilt.
Britain's dealings with Africa and especially with the Horn of Africa
illustrate its paucity of vision. Engagement at every level has taken on the
appearance of tokenism. The UK has allowed itself to be pushed and relegated
to the margins and has become a mere purveyor of Overseas Aid laced with
sanctimonious twaddle. Invariably it defers to Muammar Gaddafi's brain
child, the African Union (AU), which ensures a complete inability to do the
right thing. Countries such as Somaliland are the victim of Britain's all
things to all people diplomacy. Terrified of recognizing Somaliland lest it
be censured by some of Africa's kleptomanic leaders Britain prefers inertia
occasionally brightened by a ministerial visit and a few warm words.
Somalilanders deserve to know that some of the so-called policy makers at
the relevant desk at the FCO almost resent having to take a vague interest
in the Horn and seem to be biding their time until a more prestigious
posting in the Orient or elsewhere hoves into view. It is a real tragedy
that those charged with advising British ministers and formulating policy
demonstrate such a total lack of commitment. They sit and expect to be
rewarded for maintaining the status quo, whilst the world and especially the
Horn is changing. British policy on recognition is little more than one of
wait and see, desperately hoping a cluster of African countries will
recognize Somaliland first. Its EU partners look to the UK for leadership on
the recognition issue but instead receive the usual sophistry and semantics.
Somaliland has done although has been asked of it over the last two decades
and yet each time the goal posts are moved. At present the UK seems utterly
incapable of behaving with courage and conviction.
Mark T Jones
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