Leon says SA must escape mantle of “rogue democracy”

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Democratic Alliance foreign affairs spokesman – and former opposition leader Tony Leon says he expects an early clash between South Africa and the new US administration because of their substantially different approaches to diplomacy.
Addressing the “100 Club” at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town earlier this afternoon, Leon said SA has recently voted alongside Russia and China to, in his words, undermine efforts to implement the ground-breaking UN “responsibility to protect” resolution that authorises international intervention when a state fails to protect its own people from grievous violations of their human rights.
“Yet the new US administration is headed by true believers in this doctrine.”
Leon notes that President Barack Obama`s close foreign policy confidante and nominee for US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, is an “emphatic believer in coercive diplomacy to avert humanitarian catastrophes”.
She has previously advocated American led bombing campaigns or naval blockades “to force a recalcitrant Sudanese government to stop the slaughter in Darfur,” Leon adds.
“Seared by her visit to Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide there – which the Clinton Administration, of which she was also a member did nothing to interdict, she vowed to never let it happen again. 
 
“The Obama administration clearly takes international rights and justice seriously, and will be keen to engage like-minded international partners. It will turn the page, decisively from the unilateralism and global unpopularity of President George W. Bush.”
Leon says Obama`s ascent on the world stage “should provide a pause for thought in Pretoria”.
“Do we want to be remembered for the distance our policies have travelled from Nelson Mandela`s 1994 promise that ‘human rights will be the light that guides our foreign affairs?` or will we seize the moment to reconnect our own constitutional commitments to equality, human dignity and liberty – to our voice and votes in world forums.
Leon further adds that Obama offers the opportunity for America and the world to look for rights-based and multilateral solutions to these global crises. “SA, by rights and by inclination, should be a willing and vigorous partner in the plan to reinvigorate a more just world order.
 
“It is my opinion that our recent votes and voice in international councils and forums, such as the United Nations, have placed us on a potential collision course with a more enlightened White House administration and put us in the company of the rights-delinquent nations and authoritarian regimes of the world.
 
“Earlier this month it was revealed, for example, that South Africa refused to support a declaration by the United Nations General Assembly calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. What we practise at home, in our constitution and via progressive legislation, we contradict abroad for fear of offending some of the most retrogressive authoritarian countries in the world.
         
“Shortly before Christmas, South Africa`s foreign policy was again in the news in Washington – and again for all the wrong reasons. Under the headline, ‘South Africa`s Crime`, the highly influential Washington Post decried our government`s enablement of Robert Mugabe`s ‘destruction of neighbouring Zimbabwe, at the cost of thousands of lives.`
 
“What inflamed the Post – a reliable barometer of liberal, Washington opinion, and required reading by all members of the new US administration – was South Africa`s continued refusal to pressure Robert Mugabe to step down as a first step to ending the humanitarian crisis which he has inflicted on his own country. South Africa`s blocking (with Russian connivance) of a US-British initiative to place Zimbabwe again on the Security Council agenda of the United Nations, in December, was widely portrayed as another instance of our temporising with tyranny, rather than standing , alongside Botswana and Kenya, against the widening oppression unleashed by Mugabe.
 
“In its lead editorial on Sunday 21 December, the Post thundered – ‘What`s happening here is pretty clear: South Africa, a country which aspires to continental leadership, is allowing a depraved strongman to utterly destroy a neighbouring country…(President) Motlanthe`s government has the economic, political and military leverage to rescue Zimbabweans from their leader ; yet it not only refuses to act but actively blocks interventions by other countries. Mr Motlanthe, Mr Mbeki and those in South Africa who support this unconscionable policy have become accessories to a grave humanitarian crime.”
 
Leon says December also marked “the end of South Africa`s ill-starred two year turn as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.”
He says what should have been “the crowning achievement of South Africa`s ascent to the heights of the world stage, proved instead to be a solidarity–exercise with some of the most repressive regimes in the world.
“Apart from blocking UN discussions about human rights in Zimbabwe, we voted against imposing sanctions on Burma`s rights-delinquent military junta and Iran, for violating nuclear safeguards. Elsewhere at the United Nations, our votes on the Human Rights Council, for example, extended forward cover for other tyrannies, from Belarus to Uzbekistan. This led Washington heavyweight, Michael Gerson to suggest, earlier this year, that South Africa`s voting record placed it in a new foreign policy category: ‘a rogue democracy`.”