Thursday, October 23, 2008

How's that British foreign policy doing?

One of the oddest aspects of modern British politics is that neither the government nor the opposition have anything remotely resembling a foreign policy or plan to have one, so far as anyone can make it out. Yet, questions and debates on the subject come up with regularity, at least in the House of Lords, where there is still a pretence that we are an independent country with political leaders who have adjoining brain cells.

Yesterday there was a Starred Question about the situation in Zimbabwe and what anybody was going to do about it. To be fair, a number of their lordships have understood that nobody apart from Zimbabwe's neighbours can help the people of that unfortunate country and they, particularly South Africa, still under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, seem very reluctant to do so.

Lord Blaker's question was low-key. He asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their assessment of the allocation by Robert Mugabe of portfolios in the proposed Government of Zimbabwe.
HMG replied in the shape of Lord Malloch-Brown, former bag-carrier for the last SecGen of the United Nations, Kofi Annan:
My Lords, along with other EU states, we have condemned Robert Mugabe's unilateral allocation of ministerial portfolios. The allocation of portfolios needs to be agreed by all parties and reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed in the 29 March elections, which gave Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC a clear majority.
It is, of course, impossible for Britain to do anything in the international field on her own or simply with other Western states. Everything has to be agreed with the EU and decided on at that level.

Mind you, condemning Robert Mugabe, who knows full well that the EU is not going to do anything to hurt him. It will not even ban him from attending various meetings and summits for fear of losing the attendance of other African leaders, despite the fact that there have been numerous agreements not to let the Zimbabwean dictator step on European soil.

In fact, there is nothing anybody can do unless South Africa decides to deal with the situation. Re-running the election, as suggested by the President of Botswana, is hardly a solution, even if it is done under international supervision, whose presence is impossible to ensure without some show of force. Suppose the international supervision is in place by some miracle; suppose the election is re-run; suppose the MDC wins again. Then what? Neither Lord M-B nor, I suspect, the President of Botswana knows the answer to that.

Meanwhile, it would appear that we are still sending aid to the country with no checks on how it is distributed. In answer to the Duke of Montrose's question on the subject, Lord M-B, the former Annan and Soros henchman (at least, one hopes it is former) answered:
My Lords, it is an astonishing story. Zimbabwe was a country of 12 million people: 3 million have gone into exile; of the remaining 9 million, some 5 million will be dependent on food aid by the end of the year. We have just made an allocation to the World Food Programme of £9 million. Ours and other contributions will make sure that appropriate food is available in this man-made tragedy.
Available it may be but to whom? And who is doing the distribution? Do villages where the MDC has done particularly well get any of the aid?

That is not the full extent of our involvement as Lord Howell's question made it clear:
My Lords, as Mugabe and his gang are obviously determined not to surrender power quietly or wisely, can we be assured that the hard currency money the UK is providing to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and through our UN and EU agencies is going towards the purposes for which it is intended and is not being siphoned off and manipulated for the benefit of the ZANU-PF gangsters?
Well, well, we do not hear much about that hard currency this country provides the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. I wonder what happens to it. Somehow, I do not find Lord M-B's assurances entirely credible:
My Lords, the noble Lord draws attention to an appropriate issue. The central bank is making every effort to find any source of foreign currency to keep its patronage operations for the top leadership ticking over. The noble Lord should be assured that we are making absolutely certain that our moneys in no way fall into the hands of Government and go directly to UN and non-governmental partners, mainly for purchases made outside the country.
As the noble lords ought to know money going to the UN and NGOs are not necessarily well spent. There was this little thing called the oil-for-food scam, for instance. But, of course, neither the UN nor the NGOs need to be accountable to anybody for what they do.

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