By Job Shipululo Amupanda
THE department of political science at the University of Namibia received an invitation by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation to participate in the review of the outdated 2004 white paper on foreign policy and diplomacy. I could not attend for I had already confirmed my participation at the 24th Congress of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) taking place in Poznan, Poland; under the theme ‘Politics in the World of Inequality’. IPSA was established in 1949 to promote the advancement of political science by various means including creating platforms and environment for political scientists in the world to meet and engage as people of common belonging. At the time of writing, I was still in Poznan forming part of more than 2 000 political scientists from close to 100 countries. Sadly, I am the only Namibian political scientist in attendance. My colleagues in the department are, however, attending the foreign policy review conference and will surely make informed inputs.
For the purposes of bringing the young to understand this subject, it is important to quickly explain that a foreign policy is a strategy pursued by states in dealing, reacting and interacting with other states designed to achieve national objectives. Foreign policy is made and informed by the domestic environment. Indeed, the domestic environment forms the primary context of foreign policy. Foreign policy is concerned with setting goals, strategies and tactics of a country. To execute these, states make use of diplomacy – defined by Hans Joachim Morgenthau, one of the leading thinkers of classical realism, as ‘the formation and execution of foreign policy’. Diplomacy is, therefore, is an instrument to accomplish foreign policy goals – and also to safeguard and serve the state in its relations with other states. The review of the 2004 white paper is long overview and urgent. In September 2010, when I was still busy with my postgraduate studies in South Africa, New Era carried a story in which I had called for the review of our foreign policy. At the time, we had just experienced the first term of President Hifikepunye Pohamba which was characterised by confusion and lack of clarity in our foreign policy. As a principal foreign policy maker, President Pohamba added very little to our foreign policy content and outlook. It was only towards the end of his second term that we witnessed the establishment of new embassies. It is hoped that this initiatives was not part of bureaucratic plans of the foreign affairs ministry. To his credit he continued with the same rhetoric on Namibia’s long standing position on Western Sahara and Palestine. These too were not new matters. A lot of things had happened in international politics by then. In fact many states were already reviewing their foreign policies. Even before he came to office, Osama Bin Laden had already attacked the world Trade Centre on 11 September 2001 and the American government had launched the Global War on Terror. Security rapidly became a key concern of foreign policy given the discrediting of the old realism tradition that states are the only important actor in the international politics; none state actors, like Al-Qaeda, being the case in point.
By the time he came to office, the world had already experienced the global financial crisis (actually the global crisis of capitalism) of 2008. What this meant is that the old ideas of neoliberalism that the state must take a backseat in economic development, making way for market forces, has long been discredited. In fact, neoliberalism was already discredited following development paths and models of Asian Tigers (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) that later became known, through the work of Professor Chalmers Johnson, as the ‘developmental states’. Issues of environment had also emerged as prominent in international politics. The old ideological east and west cleavage has become more blurry so is the unity of the developing world and the global south. States then needed to do serious self-introspection to determine their national interest and action. The linkages of Namibia to the global economy have not led economic benefit for the country. Inequality, poverty and unemployment remain high after 26 years of political independence, although we have abundant natural resources being exploited and extracted by multinational corporations that came as a result of the outward development model characterising our foreign policy. These five key issues alone, amongst many, are enough for Namibia to review its foreign policy. The other perhaps more central is the new dynamic and reality that comes as a result of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP). Although the HPP is thin in details regarding the foreign policy, the makers of our foreign policy must seriously consider what the HPP posture means for foreign policy; its interventionist state aspirations. I must quickly point out that I find the much popularised narrative of “friends to all and enemy to none” as problematic in foreign policy making. While this is a well-meaning phrase, it only works in sentimentalism and religion; not in the real world characterised by the anarchic (unregulated) international system.
Take the case of Morocco and Western Sahara for example. We have been consistent, including President Hage Geingob himself, in our support for Western Sahara. Morocco has constantly refused the people of Western Sahara independence. Understandably, the people of Western Sahara, view Morocco as a long stumbling block on for their path to freedom and independence. When we say we are “friends to all and enemy to none” what does it say to the people of Western Sahara? What does it say to Morocco, and indeed what does it say of our position? We had always supported the ‘one China’ policy. It will be practically hardforPresidentXiJinpingtounderstand by that we are friends to the Dalai Lama and other aspirant separatists in China. This narrative is just very problematic on many levels. How will this work even in our diplomacy? Is friendship natural or is it cultivated? Are we going to be abstaining in major international decision making bodies, like we recently did at the UN, given that we are “friends to all and enemy to none”? If we are in danger one day, do we expect our friends to be “friends to all and enemy to none”? If an elephant is standing on a tail of a mouse, can one really say you are a friend to both the elephant and a mouse? Principles of justice, justice as fairness, should inform our foreign policy not all encompassing blanket declarations. It is not in our long term strategic national interest. We must find an alternative way to package this message because the intention is good and noble but the execution is poor. We can still rectify this! What should happen first is the articulation of our national interest; our identity, values and norms, dreams and aspirations. Professor Joseph Diescho, one of Namibia’s renowned political scientists, is also concerned. Listen to him: “[there is an] absence of clear concepts and definitions of the kind of society we want to create as Afrikans in general and Namibians in particular. In plain words we lack a coherent vision as a collective compass into our desired future. Our problem is that we lack a national philosophy or ideology of who we are, where we come from, how we got here, where we want to go, and what we have at our disposal to execute the task of socio-economic emancipation as the promised fruit of our political freedom. We keep dancing around and around the now extinguished fire of freedom, going nowhere very slowly, until even the cold ashes have been blown away by the wind and we start blaming other people for our own failures. And we turn against one another.” The constitution, in which some may find refuge, is not helpful either. As I have stated elsewhere, 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 the SADC and AU charters. As we welcome the review of our foreign policy, we should ask and resolve these tough que
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