quinta-feira, 14 de maio de 2009

Island row a failure in diplomacy

MIGINGO ISLAND HAS BEEN on the spotlight for more than a month now. The majority of Kenyans has expressed anger and frustration due to lack of clear information as to what is going on between the two sovereign states.

Matters have been made worse by comments made by government officials of the two countries. ‘‘Mijinjo is ours but we have given it to Uganda to take care of it until the issue of ownership is resolved”.

“Migingo is a non-issue at this time because we are in the process of dismantling our boundaries.”

Such statements are not only confusing but also fail to give clear information on the progress made in negotiations. This leaves room for speculation and rumour-mongering among Kenyans.

The rumours that the government sold the island to the Ugandan Government is a result of limited information from the government on the progress being made on the diplomatic front.

Psychologists will tell you that “a rumour is defined as ambiguity times importance.” This definition implies that there is an important issue which has been rendered ambiguous.

“Diplomacy is the conduct of relations between sovereign states through the medium of officials, use of tact in dealing with people or the art of lying for one’s own country.”

There are as many definitions of diplomacy as there are diplomats. But one thing is clear in diplomacy: It is our ability to think about the perception another person has of us.

Traditional diplomacy, predicated on the conduct of formal relations, will no longer stand the test of the time. Boardroom diplomacy with government officials is no longer sufficient to address the 21st century challenges of international issues affecting them.

THE WAY FORWARD FOR MIGINGO is to make use of new diplomacy which is civic, interactive and public. It implies a rethinking of representation and the mastery of a much wider range of strategies, tactics and tools.

Our success will depend on how we manage information and knowledge, both at local and international levels. This is what former President Moi alluded to when he said that the public should be informed about the progress made in negotiations over Migingo.

Government officials must learn and understand that diplomacy is no longer a preserve of the government if they are to achieve substantial progress in their diplomatic engagement.

They must be sober and inclusive to avoid negative public reactions such as what happened in Kibera where youths uprooted the railway line, paralysing transportation between the two states.

More often, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have over-reacted when constructive criticism has been levelled against their ministry due to lack of an enlightened foreign policy.

This only signifies a negative attitude towards change and a preference for using old tools of diplomacy, which will not lead us anywhere in the 21st century.

Dr Kenyoru is a former deputy High Commissioner in London and currently the director of the East African Diplomatic Consultants (Kenyoru@eadiplomaticconsultants.co.uk.)

Daily Nation

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