The Paradox of President Ian Khama’s foreign Policy

The rudimentary basics of International relations indicate to us that although an individual is a citizen of his/her community and his/her nation the reality of our age is that community or national interest can no longer be attained in isolation from world interest. Nation-states exist in a state of interconnectedness and interdependence with each.

For any national leadership to assume that they can exist on their own and do as they please without necessarily adhering to what the collective has agreed upon is absurd. One of Sir Seretse Khama's political strategies was to develop diplomatic overtures to those in our region and beyond knowing well that it would be futile for a country as small as ours to think it can be self-sufficient.

It is small wonder that he was not only one of the founding brains behind SADC but that he was one of the key players in the frontline states forum. What is happening under the current leadership is rather baffling. Is Ian Khama's policy to play a considerable role in SADC, the AU and other multilateral institutions or does he see these bodies as ineffectual and therefore unworkable?

All along we had held to the view that President Khama's foreign policy was undergirded by what is sometimes referred to as the neo-realist approach. Basically this notion suggests that international institutions are and will always be fundamentally ineffective, as they cannot proscribe states from being self-interested and engaging in power politics.

There are those like the political scientist John Mearsheimer who believe that multilateral institutions have marginal efficacy, giving way to an arena of contestation for power between nation-states, making them a reflection of the distribution of power in the international system.

President Khama's disdain and dismissiveness of regional bodies has been quite perceptible, even calling them 'talk shops.' It is now quite paradoxical that the very person who has been snubbing the SADC and AU and UN is now the chairperson of the SADC. The question is does the President suddenly agree to the importance of this organization in the political and economic development of the region or is he simply taking on this role to fulfil the rotational responsibility of the SADC states?

Clearly President Khama has isolated himself by failing to attend to any of the meetings and sharing fellowship with his Presidential colleagues in the region. This will without a doubt make his job difficult as he cannot be fully abreast of not just the issues but the dynamics of these meetings as well.

I know that some will argue that he is always fully briefed about the meetings and the decisions taken. However, a meeting is more than just its outcomes. It is the body language of the participants, the processes leading to decisions, the break- time conversations and other dynamics that anybody who wants to be a leader of an organization ought to be to mindful of.

Hence my argument that because President Khama isolated himself by needlessly absenting himself from SADC meetings his role as chairperson might proof to be quite bumpy. Of course another point to raise here is why does Ian Khama expect others to attend his summits when he doesn't attend when it is others at the helm?

The role that President Khama plays as Chairperson of the SADC is a critical one that requires someone whose disposition is that of a diplomat who shows the same deference that he expects from others.

As a country we need to desist from the kind of belligerence that is shown through our President's unexplained absenteeism from critical international meetings, our quarrelsome attitude on controversial issues without engaging our neighbors, and our continued punitive attitude in using visas and work permits against people of other nations in our country.

Now that our President is the chairperson of the SADC one hopes that we will use this opportunity to reposition ourselves and reclaim our diplomatic credentials.

Further, it is our hope that this will be an opportunity for President Khama to reinvent himself and be seen in the fraternity of other heads of states not only at the SADC but at the African Union, the United Nations and the Common Wealth.

The President is the number one diplomat who is supposed to use these opportunities to market our country, to lure potential investors and skills to our country and of course to influence decision making on the international arena.


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