What African diplomats really mean when they speak

Africans generally associate diplomacy with glamour, fancying it as a lifestyle of jet-setting between one glitzy world capital to another, with a host of perks and diplomatic privileges in tow.

It is all that, to be sure. Yet it is also a stressing business of having to keep a straight face while lying through the teeth, and molly-coddling politicians with oversized egos who have not the foggiest idea what foreign policy is, and have never heard of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Most of the high profile African diplomacy of the past year has been linked to the battle with the International Criminal Court, but it is the everyday variety which holds more spice, and is marked with euphemism, doublespeak and understatement.

In a continent where foreign policy is often a one-man show, one has to struggle to make out what is really the meaning of what gets said, despite the art of diplomacy having long been given form and structure by the Italians and French some couple of hundreds of years back.

We at the Africa Review try to sift through the African bluster and simplify it for you:

Statement by diplomat:“This week we will continue the negotiations between the government and the rebel movement, and hope that this will open the door for the movement to join the national dialogue process.”

What is really meant: We will sit down with those upstart rebels and read the riot act to them. We will lobby for international sanctions, and if that doesn’t work, jail their top leaders (or do worse). Find out where their children are schooling.

“This can only be solved by political means.”

–We need to buy time to scramble our ageing Russian military hardware to the conflict area ASAP. Shake our greedy militias out of their drunken stupor.

“We will mutually discuss steps towards democratic transition.”

–We will present the sanitised version to you donors of how we will steal the elections again.

“There is a willingness of opposing sides to reach out and show some inclusiveness and cooperation.”

–No way are we sitting across the table in the same room with those [insert name of tribe] here. They had their time to eat, as we waited patiently. It is now our turn.

“We will work with all our friends to change the people’s lives and enhance bilateral ties.”

–Have the Chinese made contact yet?

“Our government has strictly applied international conventions relating to human rights and the environment and finds this report biased.”

–Find out which of our citizens spoke to this pesky watchdog/campaign group/pressure group/lobby

“It is not right for issues to be imposed lock, stock and barrel from the international world…we have to take into consideration our culture, traditions and religious beliefs.”

–This anti-gay law is going to win us the election lock, stock and barrel. We have no need to rig ourselves in this time round.

“We are aware that some donors are encouraging [insert nationality] protests. They shouldn’t interfere with our sovereignty.”

–This doesn’t look good at all.

“Our [Great] leader’s decision to run or not for the presidency will depend on what the people want. Only the people can decide.”

–He will definitely exercise his God-given right to run, again.

“I think what we need is international cooperation to work together to deal with this challenge before it becomes a major problem for the many interests operating here.”

–We cannot guarantee your many interests if you do not fund us. Also, we will spend the money as we wish.

–Africa Rising is real. We are no longer a frontier market. There are supersized returns to be made…

–How much in kickbacks and licensing fees can we squeeze out of these new western colonisers? The election is not too far off you know.[Full article-Africareview]