What the ongoing political crisis between the governments of neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Uganda has so far done, perhaps by default rather than by intention or, to a certain degree, as or due to a failure in the system of international politics and relations, is to expose diplomacy as ineffective and conflict resolution and management as simply mere gimmicks when and where vested political and power interests are seriously threatened.
What is evident in the ongoing political crisis is that both the governments of Rwanda and Uganda are telling each other to go stuff it up where the sun does not shine!
That would be fine only if it didn’t involve and, therefore, such action didn’t threaten to affect the lives of millions of innocent people on both sides.
What it also reveals, however unsurprising, at least to many, is the true nature of politics and what it is indeed about – a dirty, cloak and dagger, bare knuckle and brutal power fighting game in which the strong prevail and the weak must be annihilated by all means necessary and available.
It also reveals how it has the inevitable tendency to render diplomacy ineffective when and where vested political and power interests are involved, and when such vested interests are believed or perceived to be threatened or indeed genuinely threatened.
Under such circumstances, the first and obvious casualty is diplomacy, it is tossed out of the political window as it is, more often than not, regarded as an inconvenience or obstacle to actions and possible use of other means that those involved prefer and regard as effective to defend their vested political and power interests.
Diplomacy, therefore, is a mere political tool that works best and effectively only when and where vested political and power interests are intact – not threatened – or indeed are aligned.
What this political crisis also equally reveals is that the concepts of conflict resolution and conflict management are, to put it bluntly, really bogus gimmicks.
They are as ineffective and useless as diplomacy is when and where vested political and power interests are threatened.
Needless to say, both countries have engaged and participated in countless conflict resolution and management conferences, between them, regionally, continentally and internationally and therefore cannot be assumed to lack conflict resolution and management capabilities and capacity.
But what is evident in the current crisis, some argue, is a culmination of a long standing hostile political relationship between the two governments, possibly centred on the persons [personalities] of both heads of state – as to suggest a historic feud between the two men, is the glaring failure or lack of interest on either side to use and thus demonstrate their conflict resolution and management know-how, so to speak, to see to it that, firstly, the current conflict should not have been allowed to escalate to the state thus far.
And secondly, to ensure that it does not deteriorate into further unnecessary damage on[to] both sides, socially, politically and, ultimately, without a shadow of a doubt, economically.
Even the more so, given the claim that seems to have gained more gravitas and repeatedly emphasised by various channels, media and some high profile individuals at the centre of the conflict, that both countries are ‘sister’ countries.
It begs the question: what is ‘sister-like‘ or where’s the ‘sisterhood‘ between neighbouring countries that cannot see to it that they resolve and manage any conflicts between them, amicably and in a ‘sisterly‘ manner, if you will, internally without proverbially washing their dirty linen in the public domain?
The lessons learned so far from the ongoing political crisis between Rwanda and Uganda are: 1) that diplomacy is a soft political tool that only works where and in so far as vested political and power interests are not seriously threatened. In so far as they are, it is subsequently rendered ineffective and useless and, if anything, an inconvenience to what must be done to ensure such interests are adequately protected; and; 2) that conflict resolution and conflict management are things, beyond being merely a money making scheme, politicians and those in it for the money, prefer to talk about and toy with, when and where vested political and power interests are not substantially threatened.
The real issue between the governments of Rwanda and Uganda is simply that of territorial integrity and national sovereignty, and therefore the sense, by and from both sides, that each is threatening or violating each other’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
It must be understood that, this issue cannot be resolved by diplomacy alone, even if both countries decide on and choose that as a possible option – as commendable and perhaps necessary as it is in itself in the current political atmosphere.
They both must come to the painful realisation, irrespective of the historic ties, and accept the stark reality and fact that diplomacy must be backed by real political and national power, that is, the real power behind any independent political entity – country or otherwise – and that is, military power.
Both governments must understand that national respectability is very much a derivative and based on a country’s ability to defend its territorial integrity, national sovereignty and its ability to defend itself against any powers that threaten its territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
It must also be understood that countries, much like individuals and of course, being a collective representation of individuals, respect each other based on each other’s ability to defend itself and to cause maximum damage when and where provoked and/or attacked.
With that sense of reality deeply rooted in mind, then diplomacy becomes a convenient and, arguably less costly option and channel, through which to settle political conflicts, crises and disagreements.