Thousands of Zimbabweans gather at Mt. Carmel High School to oppose the ongoing sanctions against the Southern African state. Sanctions were imposed after land seizure that restored property to the rightful owners., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Boycotts and sanctions simply do not work
February 18, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
A survey by the Atlantic Council indicated that a majority of Americans now favour the normalisation of relations with the Cuban government in a twist of events that could move towards political dialogue
The world has of late witnessed sincere efforts by formerly antagonistic nations to re-engage and gradually dismantle measures that fuel international conflicts. Considering how volatile the Iranian nuclear programme had become in recent years, no one could have imagined seeing the West and the Islamic Republic sitting on the same table in a bid to turn their weapons into ploughshares.
But in November last year, Iran together with the so-called P5+1 group consisting of the US, UK, Russia, China, and France plus Germany, sealed a six-month Joint Plan of Action designed to restrict parts of Iran’s nuclear programme for six months in exchange for some respite from Western embargoes.
As a result, positive developments are beginning to take shape as there are indications that Iran will be allowed access to its chest of US$45 billion blocked funds. Everything appears to be on track with Iran tipped to this month receive the first tranche of US$550 million.
On the same diplomatic plane, European Union foreign ministers on February 10 2014 agreed to open talks on a trade and political relationship with the embargoed nation of Cuba. This raised prospects of better relations between Brussels and Havana. The EU had long restricted ties with Cuba on purported grounds of promoting political reforms.
The toast of all re-engagements efforts is that between China and Taiwan, two countries that have decided, for the first time since 1949, to formally meet and create a communication platform to patch up a political relationship blighted by historical distrust and bickering. The Chinese chief of cross-straits affairs, Wang Yu-chi, captured the essence of the meeting when he noted that, “being able to sit down and talk is really valuable, considering that the two sides were once almost at war”.
Similar gestures of political re-engagements were recorded in the Korean peninsula, where North Korea and South Korea last week held highest-level talks in seven years.
This meeting raised hope for a better and peaceful future between the twin-states that are constantly showcasing their military prowess.
In the US, a survey by the Atlantic Council indicated that a majority of Americans now favour the normalisation of relations with the Cuban government in a twist of events that could move towards political dialogue. Such public opinion could jostle US authorities to review the decades-old embargo against Cuba.
Back home, Zimbabwe recently witnessed a thawing of relations with the EU. At the behest of Belgium, the European bloc scrapped illegal sanctions that were impeding the selling of Marange diamonds. Resultantly, a maiden diamond auction of Marange diamonds has been conducted in Europe and the second one is currently underway.
In the same spirit, the EU recently extended an invitation to President Mugabe to attend the EU-Africa summit despite the President being placed on sanctions by the bloc. It is also encouraging that some EU members are calling for the total removal of sanctions imposed against the Southern African nation.
This could pave way for the normalisation of relations between the parties and avail opportunities that could enable them to unleash their economic potentials.
What can be gleaned from the above submissions is that re-engagement efforts and political dialogue were not necessitated by sanctions or other coercive measures but dictated by the realisation that punitive measures are futile.
There is a realisation that political stand-offs and diplomatic boycotts are in vain when it comes to resolving bilateral challenges.
China and Taiwan realised that their longstanding stand-off has yielded nothing, the same with South Korea and North Korea. Even Western nations and Iran are alive to the ineffectiveness of sanctions and diplomatic boycotts. The same applies to the Belgians who have bitterly learnt how alienating Zimbabwe was hurting their diamond industry.
As such, there is a discernible global shift towards the prioritisation of political engagements rather than employing confrontational measures. Against this vast evidence on the efficacy of political dialogue, it would be sheer folly for any country to now seek to adopt combative measures to isolate or penalise its imagined foes.
Weighed against this backdrop, current calls by British MP Kate Hoey urging British Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott the upcoming EU-Africa summit on the grounds that President Mugabe was invited to attend, are not only retrogressive but run against the current grain of international efforts favouring political dialogue.
The British would not do themselves any favour by boycotting such an opportunity to engage Africa and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been a ready market for British products and a steady source of abundant raw materials for its industries. It is common knowledge that the Zimbabwe Republic Police has been an avid consumer of the British-made Land Rover vehicles and could be ready to place orders after the normalisation of relations.
The summit provides a rare opportunity for the British, together with the rest of Europe, to re-engage Africa at a time China is voraciously concluding lucrative deals with the resource-laden continent.
It is an opportunity to heal the bruised integrity of Africa, a continent which is increasingly becoming resentful of the exploitative and condescending nature of business deals with the West. Boycotting the summit would be blatantly condescending and evidence to Britain’s unpreparedness to engage Africa on an equal footing.
Moreover, Britain should draw lessons from the current global re-engagement efforts, which bear testimony to the futility of boycotts and other quarrelsome diplomatic manoeuvres. The British themselves are alive to the brute fact that their vengeful embargoes on Zimbabwe have dismally failed to meet their ill-driven objective to remove President Mugabe from power. So why continue on a route that has proven to be ineffective?
The Americans should also draw lessons from the international re-engagement trends, some of which it is party to. Denying Zimbabwe a seat at its summit with Africa would not bear any fruit, just as its half-a-century-old embargo on Cuba has failed to unseat the Castro government.
The US and Britain should follow the trend of political dialogue to resolve bilateral issues with their supposed enemies.