Uganda: Museveni’s ICC remarks show how badly we need diplomacy
While taking the oath of office on May 12 for the sixth time, President Museveni called the people at the International Criminal Court (ICC) a bunch of knick-knacks, to put it delicately.
The President is perfectly right to hold any opinion. Also, he’s probably right that he and the likes of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC to answer some charges of committing war crimes, have no business with ICC.
And there’s a whole bunch of other Big Men, who bestride their countries like colossi across Africa; they too would utter words similar to - or worse than - what our President said about ICC.
Still, the era of diplomacy is not over yet. It is very much alive. There are two over-arching beams that have supported - and will continue to support - the practice of diplomacy: communication and negotiation between representatives of states in the international community.
How we communicate in the refined world of diplomacy speaks volumes about how pedestrian or sophisticated we are, how much of a global perspective we command and what prospects we stand to win at the endless negotiation table that the global arena is.
There are, of course, many other tools that can be available to us in the conduct of the business of international affairs. However, some of them, such as sanctions, war and imposition of tariff and non-tariff barriers, come into use as a direct result of the failure of diplomacy.
Indeed, diplomacy is variously cited as the prime currency of the international system. It makes up the bulk of activity between states. It moderates the language State representatives, including diplomats and heads of State are expected to use. And the ability to practice diplomacy is seen as one of the defining elements of a nationstate.
Since the Europeans created the nation-state in 1648, people have been speaking with pride about their territorial sovereignty. Yet people have not always lived in sovereign states.
The Greeks had their citystates between 500BC and 100BC. Feudalism came and went. Colonialism came and went. Some scholars already argue that the nation-state is going. A more advanced form of political organisation, one that can cause an international transformation, is approaching, pushed by growing interdependence among existing states and diplomacy.
This is the reality that should serve as an impetus for Uganda to review its stance on diplomacy. We need to train and deploy diplomatic corps that can keep our society moving with the world. We need refined men and women, skilled in the art and tact of communication and negotiation.
Not two-bit politicians sent to chant party slogans abroad after losing elections. Such people put our foreign missions in bad light. They export mediocrity and witchcraft. We must develop a culture that allows us to make as many new global friends as we wish without engaging in the kind of diplomatic yo-yoing that makes us refer to old friends in contempt.
Remember, even new friends may one day become old friends. This fact became clearer after the end of the Cold War, helping popularise a specific form of diplomacy - public diplomacy.
Public diplomacy is vital to national security. It calls for strategic long-term planning, listening to foreign publics to achieve strategic objectives, using credible communicators, creating policy strategies that support communication efficiently and effectively, strengthening the quality of the strategic messages, and using solid mass media to achieve desired results with foreign publics.
• nDr Okodan is a lecturer at Kampala International University.