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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Gambia in international relations

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In my recent piece entitled “ Yahya A JJ Jammeh- The making of a benevolent African dictator”, I   pointed out that Babili Mansa failed to realize that international relations are premised on a set of systems, interwoven with web of international organizations, alliances to ensure certain norms and values are universal, despite the diversity of the cultures and the imperatives of local conditions, while certain behaviors universally unacceptable, punctuated at both bilateral and multilateral levels and the bottom line is to ensure what is understood in international relations as “limited sovereignty”.

Now that the 22 years of self isolationist foreign policy and experiment with totalitarianism are over, thanks to massive infusion of people power through the ballot box, the Smiling Coast should craft a foreign policy to suit our going priorities as a small nation hungry for development. This is informed by the fact that in this era of globalization and the new emerging dynamics of the world order, all rooted in the multi polar system of international Relations; “the aspirations of small micro states such as the Gambia tend to disappear in the global village”. As earlier alluded to, international relations are anchored on a web of systems and as I write this piece “the basic contours of a multi polar world is taking shape”. According to one erudite professor of International Relations at the Ukrainian Institute of International Relations (my alma matter) under the aegis of the Kiev State University, “ multi polar system as opposed to the bi- polar system of international relations is characterized by the emergence of regional powers, with enough clout and power, which is projected and manifested at various levels,  including military, economics, politics, and other areas referred to as “soft power” , and these regional powers are very willing and able to influence and serve as lead stakeholders at various  levels within their ”sphere of influence”.

A careful review of the complex diplomacy that was deployed  during the political impasse, revealed all the dynamics of this complex and emerging system of international relations, but one thing that stood out is that a range of measures were deployed by  the international community and amongst these included gunboat (jetfighter)  coercive diplomacy, preventative diplomacy with sole objective to contain the dangerous maelstrom, shuttle diplomacy, but above all, these range of diplomatic arsenals at the disposal of the international community were deployed mainly through regional powers such as Ghana and Nigeria under the aegis of ECOWAS and reinforced by Gambia’s only neighbor in terms of borders- Senegal.

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This is not to say the wider international community did not play ball, but  apart from the various resolutions at the level of  AU and the UN Security Council ( Resolution 2337) to show that they are with the people of the Gambia in their march towards the restoration of democracy and that “all necessary measures” are on the table “ to enforce the will of the Gambian people,” the show was largely dominated by Nigeria – the regional power and her President in the person of  Retired General Muhammadou Buhari, assisted by his able Foreign Minister Mr Enyeama – two dominant players under the auspices of ECOWAS which went further in December 17th to warn that “it shall take all necessary measures to strictly enforce the 1st December election results” an ample manifestation  that multi –polar system of international relations  is    gradually taking shape and the rubrics are at work in embryonic stage..

Therefore Kudos to ECOWAS, AU first and foremost, but as if to underscore that whatever system emerges at the global level, the UN as the pinnacle of multilateral diplomacy is here to stay, special commendation goes to the UN and by extension the indefatigable and erudite diplomat in the person of Dr Muhammed Ibn Chambas – UN special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel. I want to believe that this fine and erudite Ghanaian diplomat loves the Gambia and her people and it would not be out of order to confer on him our highest honors and make him an honorary citizen of the Smiling Coast.

This erudite diplomat even deserves more, if only you monitor his activities within the sub region, at the level of the UN and occasional forays to the Smiling Coast to issue messages of good will and offer one or two advices as he deems fit all geared towards making the Smiling Coast a better place. His recent pronouncement was made just after the parliamentary elections and this indefatigable diplomat again issued a clarion call for our political stakeholders to rise above all and promote the national interest.

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The erudite diplomat further added that “as you move ahead with the national reform agenda. You must respond to the legitimate expectations of the Gambian citizens.” He noted that he “wholeheartedly commended the progress achieved by the Gambians with the conduct of these elections, which confirm the country’s steady march towards sustained peace, democracy and stability”.

When this erudite diplomat speaks, we as Gambians should listen attentively. He has demonstrated beyond words that he genuinely cares for the GAMBIA and her people.

All these postures are against the backdrop that in international relations, according to Lord Palmerston one of the finest British statesman and diplomat of his era “there is no permanent friend, but permanent interest”. This is a basic principle of international relations and in his article published by New African magazine in June 2011 entitled “ What the world got wrong in Cote D Ivoire” shortly after the installation of the current president in that Francophone country, Thabo Mbeki – the second black president of South Africa  and one of the brains behind the concept of “African Renaissance” in the beginning of this millennium, accentuated that the way and manner the  Ivorian post election impasse was resolved points to a number of incontrovertible conclusions.  But one of the conclusions that caught my attention is the role of France in the mix – the former colonial power and according to Mbeki “France joined the UN to ensure that Ouattara emerged the victor in the Ivorian conflict”.

I fully understood the role of France in the scheme of things and I genuinely believe that Gbargbo outplayed his cards and that the international community supported by France acted to restore sanity in Cote d’Ivoire , but the motivation for invoking this piece is to show that national interest is usually the overriding force in action of states and according to Mbeki this outcome “addressed the national interest of France, consistent with its Francafrique policies, which aim to perpetuate a particular relationship with its former African colonies.”

“This is in keeping with the remarks made by former French President of France- Francois Mitterrand when he said ‘without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st Century” which former French Minister Jacques Godfrain confirmed when he said “A little country France with a small amount of strength, we can move a planet because of our … relations with 15 or 20 African countries” Mbeki revealed.

This foreign policy interest contrasts with the British, who have at their disposal a huge COMMONWEALTH across the oceans comprising very rich to small island states and accordingly these two European powers played different roles during Gambia’s political impasse and transition to democracy all in line with the core tenets of their respective foreign policies.

Way Forward
I therefore want to make a humble suggestion for the authorities of new GAMBIA to undertake a careful review of Gambia’s foreign policy priorities and discard superfluous alliances and partnerships. Our foreign policy should be smart and geared towards our national interest which is the development of our people, ensure their security and contribute our quota in making the world a better place for all, bearing in mind that a country cannot be bigger than its foreign policy.

A case in point is that countries such as USA, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany and China have ambitious foreign policies because their interest is everywhere, thus the need to influence things beyond their borders. Countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Singapore enjoy very high standards of living, but with a very modest foreign policy.

In his Book “Kairaba” the first president of the Republic of The Gambia Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara eloquently accentuated the role of international relations in nation building when he pointed out that the “the job of any African leader could have been much easier had independence meant managing domestic issues and ruling ones people in pristine isolation from the rest of the world— we set out with a firm conviction that the Gambia must take its place beside the rich and powerful and its message needed to be taken and presented”. He went on “we strongly believe that the peaceful and friendly manner of our people was a gift we could bring to the African continent and to the world to show that our people’s brand of tolerance and understanding had something to teach and that was what we had to offer by aligning ourselves with the world’s peaceful forces.”

On the Senegalo – Gambian relations Sir Dawda underscored the fact that “there was understanding brought about by our homogeneity and the cementing culture that recognized this fact and found in place in the manner of negotiations and concessions”. Very apt and it is my humble view that history and geography have condemned us all to forge special relationship with Senegal, but as the current Senegalese Ambassador to Banjul once alluded to in an interview published by the Daily Observer “ there exist small countries, but there are no small people.” . In my humble view this is a good basis for forging a relationship with Senegal based on mutual respect and adherence to basic principles and tenets of international relations. If anyone needs further guide on this very delicate relationship, I would humbly refer him or her to UN expert report issued is 1964 and entitled ‘Alternatives for Association between the Gambia and Senegal.” This report presented “some insightful and significant possibilities for closer forms of association between the two countries”.

The author studied International Relations and diplomacy. Currently engages as a marketing and tourism consultant, given his grounding in tourism as well. He also underwent through series of specialized training in Tourism Management, Destination Management and Destination Marketing.

By Lamin Saho

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