*LOCAL POLITICAL CHAMPIONS AND DIPLOMACY*
By George M. Chellah
Diplomacy or international relations is a highly sophisticated and specialized field. Thus, when our political discourse spills into the international arena, a whole different set of skills, talents and personnel are required when we engage in the discourse.
It’s quite a concern when voices start popping up in an undisciplined and uncoordinated fashion whenever issues are raised by the international community such that when the seat of power -State House- finally spoke on the concerns raised by the European Union (EU), much as the message was sober and conciliatory (see Times of Zambia, 2017, May 20), I wasn’t sure if the preceding statements most of which appeared unauthorized hadn’t done the damage already.
In his paper entitled The Inertia of Diplomacy, scholar Juergen Kleiner contends that communication is what makes the institution of diplomacy logical (Kleiner, 2008, p.322).
Kleiner further adds that ‘As an institution that is a pattern of behavior, diplomacy is based on an established body of rules and practices for communication’ (ibid, p.322).
I think anybody that feels like talking under the banner of our government and country must search their conscience and realize just how much what they say puts the Presidency in an awkward position because in the end it’s the Presidency that has to clean up the mess being caused by these unwarranted statements within diplomatic and international circles.
Diplomacy is a sophisticated craft with a sharp memory, and talking in the media does not always mean you are saying something useful.
In diplomacy, there is a difference between talking and speaking.
Whilst dirty tricks like ‘wild-dog formations’, which entails vicious cluster attacks of biting off flesh from a fleeing prey till it drops, are relatively effective in domestic political discourse and tact, the same cannot be said regarding international political discourse.
The sanctity of diplomacy lies in confidentiality and closed-door engagements. Diplomacy is a never-ending political shadow boxing game.
This concept reminds of Lance Price’s theory in his book entitled Where Power Lies: Prime Minister Vs The Media in which he discusses what he terms as the ‘cloud-covered territory’ of journalism and political overlaps. Price (2010, p.5) describes the relationship between the two worlds as ‘… a place where private conversations, off-the-record briefings, nods, winks and gestures of a less friendly nature are often the language of choice’.
Similarly, diplomacy is never a public spectacle event or recognition seeking ride. Diplomats are backroom operators and are never stage performers.
In diplomacy, one has to only speak when the discourse is unique, mature and adding significant value to the matter at hand, with special attention paid to the wording, context and tone of the message.
What we ought to realize is that there is a totally different audience, interested parties and consequences when it comes to playing politics on the international stage.
Please let us save the Presidency and the citizens from perpetual confusions by keeping our overzealousness and poor arguments within the local boundaries of our political discourse.
You can be a celebrated local champion but best you stay in that lane; international politics is not only a rocky terrain, it’s a totally different ball game – the mind more than the mouth does the talking.