Britain’s bossy attitude towards Zimbabwe had only solidified President Robert Mugabe’s status as a colonial liberation leader and rallied South Africa’s unwavering support, one of the cables released by Wikileaks says.
This was the view of several British think tanks which said though Zimbabwe should remain a top priority for Britain, they did not understand what the United States’ interest in the country was.
The think-tanks included Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the Royal Africa Society, Africa Confidential, the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit and the International Crisis Group.
“Several think tank analysts thought that Zimbabwe should and will remain a top priority for the UK, but that HMG’s history of bombastic statements has only served to solidify President Mugabe’s status as a colonial liberation leader and rallied South Africa’s unwavering support,” the cable says.
“From a strategic perspective, these analysts termed the USG’s focus on Zimbabwe as “surprising” because Zimbabwe is not a threat, but largely a contained crisis. They said that Zimbabwe’s crisis should be treated as a regional issue, not an international one, and that the USG should not sacrifice its relations with South Africa, the more strategic partner, over Zimbabwe, even if the political events in Zimbabwe run contrary to the USG’s democracy agenda.”
They recommended that the international community should take a “tough and quiet” approach to Mugabe and ZANU-PF, sanctioning and obstructing their personal freedoms but without commenting publicly.
They also said that the international community’s concern about Zimbabwe being a regional destabilizer was largely unfounded, as most of the Southern Africa Development Community – especially South Africa – “can take of themselves.”
Below is the full cable:
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHLO #0339/01 0371625
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061625Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1313
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 3375
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 000339
DEPART FOR AF/FO, AF/W, AF/E, AF/C, AF/S, AF/RSA, AF/SPG,
EO 12958 DECL: 02/04/2019
TAGS PREL, EAID, MASS, KISL, ZI, SO, NI, SU, SF, XA, UK
SUBJECT: AFRICA: U.S. VERSUS UK PRIORITIES, LONDON THINK
REF: A. 08 LONDON 1426 B. 08 LONDON 2477 C. LONDON 289 D. LONDON 266 E. 08 LONDON 2882 F. 08 LONDON 3165 G. 08 LONDON 2917
Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills, reasons 1.4 (b/d).
¶1. (SBU/NF) Summary. During the transition to the Obama Administration, London think tanks have been active in discussing USG and HMG priorities in Africa. Poloff took the opportunity to poll opinions among Africa specialists at Chatham House, RUSI, the Royal Africa Society, Africa Confidential, the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, and International Crisis Group (please protect). The following are issue-by-issue consensus summaries from those discussions:
— HMG’s Africa policy lacks focus and is unable to internally prioritize its Africa policy.
— Zimbabwe should/will remain a priority for the UK for historical reasons, but the USG’s focus is “surprising,” as it is largely a contained crisis that should be treated as a regional issue. A “tough and quiet” approach should be considered.
— Somalia should be more of a priority for HMG, given the UK’s history with the region, the large number of Somali Diaspora in the UK, and the real security threats that community may present to the UK.
— Nigeria, especially the Niger Delta and corruption issues, should be a greater HMG priority because of Nigeria’s financial links to the UK, large UK-based Diaspora community, and energy potential.
— Sudan, including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Darfur crisis, should remain top USG and HMG priorities because of the regional impact destabilization would have on the Horn.
— South Africa’s desire for a permanent UNSC seat should be the leverage point for the USG and HMG to actively improve relations with South Africa.
— The global economic downturn will have a greater affect on Africa than the IMF and World Bank are predicting.
— Engaging African Diaspora communities should be a key USG and HMG focus, as Africa is the most politically globalized continent.
— Engaging Muslims in Africa may be a mechanism to also improve relations with the Middle East and South Asia. End summary.
UK Africa Policy Lacks Direction, Unable to Prioritize
¶2. (SBU/NF) Most London-based think tank Africa specialists thought HMG had lost its ability to prioritize on Africa, especially since the October 2008 departure of Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Africa and Development Justin Forsyth. HMG’s creation of an inter-agency Defense-Foreign Office-International Development Cabinet Sub-Committee on Africa, they thought, had not succeeded in resolving internal HMG disputes over priorities in Africa. Given the UK’s credit crunch and diminishing international influence, the Chatham House Africa specialist asserted, HMG should be trying to burden share on Africa with the French and the EU. HMG, however, has not done that effectively and is therefore spreading itself too thin, resulting in a lack of tangible impact in areas of strategic British interest.
¶3. (C/NF) Embassy comment: Forsyth, while hit-or-miss on follow through, was generally able to corral UK government departments into setting African priorities: Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. FCO Minister for Africa Mark Malloch-Brown has tried to provide direction (ref A), but his “nice guy” approach of dealing directly with African leaders through his well-established network of contacts, coupled with the lack-luster direction of the new FCO Africa Director Adam
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Wood (ref B), has meant no serious consideration of the UK’s priorities in Africa. The UK’s National Security Strategy also failed to provide any direction, though efforts are underway to improve the document (ref C). Brendan Cox, former Crisis Action head, is due to replace Forsyth at No. 10 in mid-February, but many of those with whom we spoke questioned if he will have the political capital to make any real impact on the UK’s Africa policy, given Prime Minister Brown’s standing in the domestic polls and need to focus on the global economic situation. End comment.
¶4. (SBU/NF) Several think tank analysts thought that Zimbabwe should and will remain a top priority for the UK, but that HMG’s history of bombastic statements has only served to solidify President Mugabe’s status as a colonial liberation leader and rallied South Africa’s unwavering support. From a strategic perspective, these analysts termed the USG’s focus on Zimbabwe as “surprising” because Zimbabwe is not a threat, but largely a contained crisis. They said that Zimbabwe’s crisis should be treated as a regional issue, not an international one, and that the USG should not sacrifice it’s relations with South Africa, the more strategic partner, over Zimbabwe, even if the political events in Zimbabwe run contrary to the USG’s democracy agenda. They recommended the international community take a “tough and quiet” approach to Mugabe and ZANU-PF, sanctioning and obstructing their personal freedoms but without commenting publicly. They asserted that the international community’s concern about Zimbabwe being a regional destabilizer is largely unfounded, as most of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – especially South Africa – “can take of themselves.”
¶5. (SBU/NF) Given the UK’s history, the large number of Somali Diaspora in the UK, and the real security threats that community may present to the UK, think tank security specialists thought Somalia should be more of a priority for HMG. HMG, they argued, should be more innovative on Somalia policy, focusing on local community engagement and finding humanitarian and social initiatives where material benefit can be derived without deployment of an excessively large peacekeeping force. The RUSI Africa specialist said HMG and the USG’s previous entry point to Somalia was through Ethiopia. With the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, a new entry point should be found quickly. He thought both IGAD and the AU could serve in this capacity. He also asserted that recognition of Somaliland should be considered to allow it access to international mechanisms for development and capacity support, as well as to support its democratic development in the face of increasing Islamic militant pressures.
¶6. (C/NF) Embassy comment. Cabinet office officials have told us that they consider Somalia a serious security concern, but they have not been able to induce other HMG departments to move on it, in large part because of the failure of the HMG process to set Africa priorities. HMG’s budget crunch also seems to be hindering the decision-making process (ref D). End comment.
¶7. (SBU/NF) Think tank West Africa specialists, citing Nigeria’s significant financial links to the UK, large Diaspora community, and energy potential, said that the country, especially the Niger Delta and corruption issues, should be a clear HMG priority, but it has not been. HMG’s capacity for political analysis on Nigeria, they thought, was both “weak and shallow.” The RUSI security specialist said Nigeria, as well as Africa as a whole, needs better maritime security and should be able to secure its ports. Weak land and maritime security, combined with fragile state and government institutions, is an integrated problem in Nigeria, he asserted.
¶8. (C/NF) Embassy comment: Although the Foreign Office appears interested in developing a more focused and strategic policy on Nigeria, the Home Office’s drive to conclude a
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prisoner transfer agreement has prevented HMG from moving forward on any other meaningful issues (refs E, F, and G). End comment.
¶9. (SBU/NF) All the think tank analysts consulted agreed that Sudan, including implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and finding a political solution to the Darfur crisis, should remain top HMG and USG priorities because of the regional impact destabilization of Sudan would have on the entire Horn of Africa.
¶10. (SBU/NF) These analysts also all agreed that now was the time for both HMG and the USG to improve relations with South Africa. It is time to mend fences, especially for the UK, and South Africa’s desire for a permanent UN Security Council seat as part of UNSC reform, should be the leverage point, they asserted. South Africa, they assessed, has the potential to break up unhelpful African voting blocks in the UN, in spite of its “diplomatically difficult” time during its recent rotation on the Security Council.
The Global Economic Downturn and Africa
¶11. (SBU/NF) Royal African Society specialists thought the global economic downturn would affect Africa significantly, much more than the IMF and World Bank have been reporting, because of falling commodity prices. Increased unemployment, they thought, would likely increase urban unrest and destabilize individual nations’ security.
Engaging the Diaspora
¶12. (SBU/NF) Several think tank specialists noted the importance of the African Diaspora. With the global credit crunch, they thought, the African Diaspora’s role will be increasingly important, both economically and politically. They asserted that Africa is the most politically globalized continent, even if it is not economically globalized. They indicated that HMG and the USG should find ways for the Diaspora to constructively engage on the continent, which will influence African governments in favor of Western values, as most large, affluent African Diaspora communities are based in the West.
¶13. (SBU/NF) The RUSI Africa specialist suggested that HMG and the USG should do more to engage Muslims in Africa, as it is an easier entry point for fostering goodwill that may transmit to more difficult geographic areas, like the Middle East and South Asia.
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