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Wednesday, 20 November 2013 12:53(Opinion) – October 2005, Taipei cuts ties with Dakar as Dakar resume relations with Beijing after a near 10 year break, reducing the island’s number of countries with which it has diplomatic ties to 25.
Senegal began her relations with Taiwan in January 1996 and Taipei provided aid for projects in infrastructure, education and medical care and helped the country establish industrial zones.
Taipei argued that it has cut ties with and stop giving aid to Dakar after it resumed relations with mainland China to preserve Taiwan’s dignity, sovereignty and the welfare of its citizens.
The mainland has always insisted on developing friendly and cooperative relations with the rest of the world on the basis of the one-China principle and the principles of peaceful coexistence. This on the contrary is making the administration in Taipei feel that China is squeezing its international diplomatic efforts.
PLAYING NATIONAL INTEREST
After 18 years of everyday honeymoon, Hollywood movie type, fairy tale diplomatic marriage between the Gambia and Taiwan, the Administration in Banjul has decided to cut ties with Taipei in what has come as shocking decision to the Taipei leadership. Just as in any separation, both countries will have something to lose.
Banjul is likely to resume relations with Beijing. The reason if “strategic national interest” is the case is for Banjul to tap Chinese investments and foreign aid and earn support of the Chinese to solidify the power of the administration in Banjul.
The Administration of President Yahya Jammeh is under mounting international pressure and the case of the Gambia is fast moving towards getting a sponsored resolution against Banjul at the Security Council. It should not be a surprise if the Jammeh Administration goes to China and builds a relationship with the mainland based on a mutual issue – human rights violations and the pressure of international non-profits, who have continuously accused both nations of extensive human rights violations, extra judicial killings, and lack of press freedom.
If the Gambia can get China’s support through this strategic mean, it means a potential veto of any resolution against the Jammeh Administration such as in the case of Syria. While Taiwan is investing in dictators, the dictators are in turn moving to more influential leadership as the need arises because any country that has a relationship with Taiwan can guarantee that if a resolution gets to the UN Security Council to sanction that nation, China will vote YES. China is the Gambia’s only guarantee of a veto in favor of the Jammeh Administration based on the aforementioned mutual issue.
Taiwan has heavily invested millions of dollars in the Gambia from supporting local communities to supporting our military. There is an endless list of what Taiwan has done for the Gambia over the past 18 years. Friday, June 26, 2009, Taiwan donated four navy patrol boats; August 28, 2013 donated three navy boats to the Gambia and just last week, before the termination of the relationship, Taiwan has donated some millions to the Gambia. Times without number, the Gambian leadership including the President and former and current Secretary Generals, Vice President and Cabinet Members have praised Taiwan.
These praises have been proven to be fake and comical and they constitute an insult to the people of Taiwan, their dignity and self-worth. This is proves to Taiwan that their diplomacy is not based on key security, political or economic interest but that of money diplomacy. It does not last and it does not end on a good note.
RETHINKING FOREIGN POLICY
Both Taiwan and the Gambia have to rethink about their foreign policy. Taiwan diplomatic strategy of gaining recognition is out of the way while the Gambia’s strategy has been proven to be one of betrayal. Taipei needs to work with influential leaders who are transparent and democratic. Taiwan’s allies are mostly small Latin American, African and Pacific nations, ruled by dictators attracted partly with pledges of investment or aid that only solidify the power of such leaders.
Such a wrongful investment has no gain and this why Taiwan has not made any significant achievement in getting the recognition it needed from the international community. Truly, the Gambian President should not take a unilateral decision to cut ties with Taiwan without cabinet consultations, without informing his ambassador and without parliamentary approval. It is rather unethical, unprofessional and undiplomatic. But using “strategic national interest” is rather a key factor to consider in building relations with any nation as it was a reason that was used by Taiwan in 2005 after Senegal resumed relations with the mainland.
The Gambia can resume relations with mainland China and wait for Taiwan to terminate the relationship but President Jammeh’s political ego will not allow him to let that happen. He would not like his opponents to conclude that he was “dumped by Taiwan” over human rights issues. If he lets that happen, it would only weaken him but for him to abruptly cut off ties is rather a strategic move as it is distractive and easily switches attention from the issues faced by Gambians.
Nonetheless, this strategy by Banjul comes with its demerits as it shows the international community that he (President Jammeh) does not follow protocols and is unreliable to work with. This will make other countries not use him as their biggest ally. The Banjul Administration is likely to get lots of money from mainland China if it resumes relations, have some investments and aid. But the Jammeh Administration should know that, that would be very temporary. It will be a way to hype them. China has more important geo-political, economic and national interest in many other countries rather than the Gambia.
The Gambia will need more money than that which Taiwan might have been giving especially now that Banjul is facing off with its biggest development partner, the European Union. Recently, the EU has denied the Gambia over 10 million Euros. Banjul will thus need to build a relationship that will fill in that gap. What better country is there but China that have been accused of human rights violations. Indeed, Banjul will use these accusations of human rights and colonialism to befriend China.
If there exist a strategic scale of preference in China’s diplomacy, countries like the Gambia with very little or no influence in the international community will be at the bottom of its list. China does not need the Gambia. China building any relationship with the Gambia will be a way to weaken Taiwan and frustrate Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts. The Gambia on the other hand will need China not just financially but as its ticket to veto any resolution to be taken against Banjul.
Politically, China will not directly starts diplomatic relations with the Gambia right away but also do not be surprised if Banjul resumes relations with Taiwan after less than 5 years if China fails to meet its demands or giving less than the Taiwanese.
Lesson learnt or not, Taiwan should work with democratic countries, where rights of the people are secured and respected and should even sanction countries that abuse the constitutional rights of its citizens. This is rather a better strategy for Taiwan rather than money diplomacy with some of the world’s most brutal regimes. Dealing with brutal regimes and dictators only harms Taiwan’s efforts unknown to them.
Follow up on recommendations with The Charms of Diplomatic Divorce II in the coming days.
Written by Sam Phatey
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