Supporters of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) rejoicing that the change of batons between the boldly speaking Ambassador David Reimer and his successor Bryan D. Hunt will represent a paradigm shift in the United States’ present policies towards Sierra Leone, are in for another big disappointment.
Ignorance of the principles of international diplomacy and foreign policies force people to have jaundiced ideas about ambassadors , the things they say and the policies and values they represent and propagate.
First of all, let it be made clear that ambassadors do not represent themselves and they do not speak for themselves . Ambassadors are not loners that choose their own pathways and policies in the field. Ambassadors are appointed to promote their country’s policies and interests in the host countries, and this is what they are supposed to pursue carefully during their tour of duty.
Therefore, though their styles of propagating it might be different, no ambassador will ever change his country’s stance or policies on his own . The new ambassador will only continue his / her country’s foreign policies and interests . Before he leaves his country, the ambassador is diligently enlightened about the state of affairs in the country he is going and his country’s foreign policies towards that country and he is given a mandate to pursue them consciously and carefully.
Concurrently, well before he leaves his station , the recalled ambassador writes thorough and very comprehensive handing over notes about his tenure, important events that happened and sociopolitical and economic dynamics within the country and the state of the diplomatic relations between his country and the host country as well as the policies, which the new ambassador is compelled to follow diligently and religiously.
If SLPP supporters are hoping that with the coming of Ambassador Hunt, the U.S will accept the results of Sierra Leone ‘s June 24 multi-tier elections which she considers rigged and lacking credibility and drop the conditions she has given President Maada Bio or resume the Millennium Challenge Corporation ( MCC ) Compact , I wish them good luck.
You would not believe it. In the notes, the departing ambassadors even provides a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of all the local and diplomatic staff to smoothen the transition period. When we assumed our duties at the Sierra Leone Mission to the United Nations in New York when the APC came to power, the lead ambassador and Permanent Representative had even been informed in the notes about a running feud between two members of the diplomatic staff which had to be handled and worked around with skill and tact. In short, the outgoing ambassador leaves nothing unreported because diplomacy is a very delicate profession in which errors are not permitted .
Ambassadors will obey only their countries’ dictates and follow their policies , so as Ambassador Reimer has made lucidly clear, nothing will change for the SLPP government.
Also, there was no breach of protocol in what Ambassador Reimer told 98.1. Countries are very strict about the manner their diplomats represent them abroad because one misstatement or inaction or deviation from foreign policy would hurt their countries ‘ interests and the diplomatic and fraternal relations between theirs’ and the host countries. The Ambassador’s statement was therefore probably rehearsed before it was delivered.
SLPP must know that an ambassador will say only what his country has told him to say. Everything that outgoing Ambassador Reimer said on Tuesday in the leaked audio of his interview with Radio Democracy 98.1 was not his own opinion or perception. It was what the U. S Foreign Service ( State Department ) had told him to say.
Those people attacking the ambassador personally and accusing him of antagonizing the SLPP or interfering in the internal affairs of the country were only petulantly taking advantage of the ambassador. It was an act akin to killing the messenger for the message he had been given to deliver. If the SLPP did not like the message, their gripe should be with the United States of America, not with Ambassador Reimer, who was only a messenger .
It must also be noted that ambassadors are trained and oriented to be very tactful and economical with what they say and to always project positive outlooks of the diplomatic relations between theirs’ and host countries. That is why you find that even when relations between their countries and the host nations are going sour, ambassadors go out of their way to articulate the cordial and fraternal relations aspect because their duty really is to maintain good relations . They were not appointed to deliberately and needlessly damage relations between their country and other nations.
However, there are certain things that underpin the foreign policies of superpowers like the United States that diplomats are not to compromise, and these include humanitarian issues, human rights, rule of law and democracy because they dictate the diplomatic relations between the U.S and other countries.
Like it or not, agree with it or not, that is the reality of international diplomacy and geopolitical dynamics. America must have her say and insist on it being done her way. America is the policeman of the world, and it will be overstretching the facts to accuse her that she ascribed that role on herself ( truthful as it may seem ) , without considering other dynamics at play as well.
Yes, America overreaches herself and wants to influence and control events in the world but also consider this fact : America , on account of her military and economic strength and the scale of her humanitarian assistance to the world, is the primary nation called upon to act whenever something bad happens anywhere around the globe. Every country in the world depends on America for one thing or the other . If there is an earthquake, landslide , plane crash, famine, pandemic, tsunami, terrorist attack, coup, war anywhere in the world, there has been no meaningful intervention until the United States comes to the scene.
Only when America has intervened will there be a measure of relief and hope that something was being done. And America does perform well . Her abundant economic, logistical, technical , medical and military and police resources always ensure that she seems to provide the best solutions . Knowing how much the world depends on her to put out fires, America is at times inclined to believe that she has the ultimate answers to the problems of the world.
Those who always claim that they are a sovereign nation, and no country has the right to interfere in their country’s internal affairs should try to justify their stand by being able to do things for themselves without depending on America. If you want t I claim sovereignty, then do everything for yourself so you will be that Supreme, untouchable nation that nobody can correct or tell to do the right thing. Sovereign nations of the type the SLPP are touting should not depend on any country for anything. They should grow their own foods and feed their own people. They must and should be able to develop their health, educational , infrastructural and political services on their own without depending on America.
They must be able to provide relief and humanitarian services when disasters strike without help from America. When a foreign army invades their country, they must be able to defend themselves and drive out the intruders without depending on America. I do not see this happening . I see that America’s hands are in everything good happening to their countries. It is America that feeds their people, heals their sick, provides the funds to build their roads , bridges, hospitals, schools, water systems, electricity and keep all their institutions functioning and even pays the salaries of the workers of some of these countries.
We cannot do anything without America. We cannot even breathe without America. That being so, don’t we think that America has a right to express her disapproval if we are not doing the right thing and we are self- destructing as is presently happening in Sierra Leone ? If Maada Bio is allowed to continue on the path of destruction and war breaks out, it is to America we will cry. It is America that we will depend on to help end the war, rebuild, upkeep the displaced and refugees and bring back peace .
Lastly, America has decided that since countries depend on her to keep their heads above water, aid should be tied to these countries ‘ adherence to the values that America hold dear to her heart ( Even if she herself is not perfectly practicing them ) , like democracy, free and fair elections , respect for fundamental human rights , the constitution and the rule of law . It is one of the tenets of America’s foreign policies. If we do not want to practice these values and want to go our own way, we must first become self- reliant and truly independent and after that create our own world because in today’s globalized world and the risk of spillovers of conflicts to other countries , no superpower that we slavishly depend on to put out fires will allow us to destabilize our subregion or our neck of the woods.
These are the factors at play, fellow Sierra Leoneans . Until we are able to create our own world and be independent in the true sense of the word and do everything for ourselves, we have to play ball with America and the West, like it or not, especially where , as in this case, it is for the betterment of our country and people .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ambassador Wilfred Leeroy Kabs-Kanu is presently an international diplomat and elections observer working for the U.S – based international elections observer team, WOMEN IN AUDITING AND MONITORING ELECTIONS GLOBALLY ( WIMAGE ).
He was Sierra Leone’s Minister Plenipotentiary and Coordinator of the African Union Committee of 10 ( C-10) on the United Nations Security Council Reform from 2008 to 2018 . He is also publisher of one of Sierra LEONE’S biggest and most widely read newspaper, COCORIOKO.