Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has an interesting strategy to lift the recent sanctions imposed by the US over the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. His plan involves using its own lawmakers and other political powerhouses in the US’s own backyard.According to federal disclosure filings, the government of Uganda has hired the services of DC consulting firm Mercury to aid in its public relations and lobby in US soil. The signing of the one-year, $600,000 contract came one month after the Obama administration announced its initial substantial sanctions against the African country for its harsh laws against the LGBT community there.
Even Western countries have hired lobbyists in Washington DC. That is how they get favourable policies passed to advance their economic interests. In DC, it is who you know that gets you through the door. It is big money business and the lobby firms usually staffed by both Democrats and Republicans to ensure access irrespective of which party in power gets things done. So there is nothing wrong with African leaders doing what Western countries routinely do. Actually it is long over due.
The Whitaker Group worked to engineer a turnaround in Uganda’s troubled image, assisted by, Rosa Whitaker, a former top official for African affairs from both the Bush and Clinton administrations. Rwanda, Tanzania and others have all paid for representation from K Street insiders.The Whitaker Group was credited with promoting investments in Uganda’s cotton industry and boosting trade by helping global giant Starbucks purchase Ugandan coffee. But in 2009, President Yoweri Museveni’s government continued its suppression of political opponents and gays. Museveni then maneuvered to change the constitution to allow him cling to power. The firm broke off its relationship.
The old guards are uncomfortable as the face of diplomacy has changed from the traditional to modern diplomacy. Studies in modern diplomacy indicate new diplomatic approaches.Somalia’s 2011 contract with Park Strategies was $240,000.
Somaliland and Puntland, autonomous regions in Somalia, hired their own lobbyists. Puntland hired the Moffett Group – a Washington firm run by former Connecticut Congressman Toby Moffett – to help get ConocoPhillips to reinvest in its oil exploration leases. Somaliland hired the Glover Park Group – run by former Clinton administration officials Carter Eskew, Joe Lockhart and Michael Feldman – and in March signed a new contract worth $22,500 per month.
Last summer, Nigeria agreed to pay the Glover Park Group $30,000 a month, plus expenses. Documents show Nigeria was particularly concerned with U.S. policies related to security cooperation between the two countries.
Madagascar hired the U.S. Fed Group to arrange a series of meetings for its transitional president President H.E. Rajoelina in key American states – and an invitation to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference in June 2012. Records show U.S. Fed paid Quintairos, Preito, Wood and Boyer in Chicago $75,000 to score the invitation and an appearance with Bill Clinton and meetings with the mayor of Chicago, governor of Illinois and other officials.
Mauritius paid the Washington firm Ryberg & Smith LLP $600,000 from 2003 to 2011. This year, federal records show, it is paying Mercury LLC a $20,000-a-month to advance issues related to its “sovereignty.” (Mauritius claims sovereignty over the Chagos islands, where the key American military base on Diego Garcia is located).
Kenya paid Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates $2.4 million in 2008, followed by roughly another $2 million in 2009, to lobby policymakers and burnish the country’s reputation among business leaders in Washington, New York and other cities. In 2010, the Kenyan government entered an agreement with both Chlopak and the Moffett Group for advocacy and communication services.
South Sudan hired the firm Independent Diplomat when it seceded from the north in 2011, to help the new country secure diplomatic recognition as an independent state.
Traditionally, only diplomats accredited by their nations discussed and lobbied on behalf of their governments. In modern diplomacy however, there are many diplomats outside the docket of embassies; here we find INGO, cultural groups, friends, fraternities (sports, religious, businesses, media houses, etc) etc all doing different roles traditionally done by accredited staff. That does not mean embassies have lost value or power, what this means is that they have to change approach.
The traditional approach is no longer attainable as it has been overtaken by events. Imagine with the advent of modern media, nationals everywhere do see events happening thousands of miles away at the comfort of their sitting/living rooms; and powerful lobbyists can get what they want done there in a short time.
To get something, diplomats have to use several approaches including hosting parties in their embassies, in the homes where the spouses play a big role to help the main person.So when our leaders send their political appointees to embassies, you know the level of representation your country has. The spouses should be well educated persons who could as well be appointed to diplomatic positions because they are part of the diplomatic team but when you appoint a person who never studied diplomacy, there are more chances that the fellows have no idea of what they are supposed to do.
In other countries (especially developed countries) diplomacy is a career where one advances accordingly and for others not directly working under foreign affairs, the guys may have studied international relations and/or have done similar assignments which qualify them to do the same even if they were politicians.
Uganda has well trained and real diplomats who could do our country much pride. I am surprised to read political appointees complaining of being undermined and the ministry of foreign affairs stating that the problem concerns money.It is just because such people are used to free money otherwise, huge money can be got in those countries if only the officers are well educated in diplomacy.
I challenge government of Uganda to fill those positions with career diplomats and the country’s image will be for the better, there is no need spending too much money buying white wash. As a diplomat, I will not fear to advise my government on the way forward, that is my work as a career person.