High Table Syndrome

Many will remember the famous quote by Bismarck which reads ‘the great question of the day cannot be determined by speeches but by blood and iron’. By then, the Bismarckian thinking placed much emphasis on hard power. Bismarck believed that might was always right when it comes to solving global conflicts. However, the Bismarckian time is now behind us. The world has witnessed many geo-political changes. The world has drifted from being a bi-polar to a uni-polar world. With the demise of the former USSR and the end of the Cold war the world gravitated into being a unipolar world that witnessed the hegemonic dominance of the US as the major global ‘big brother’. With the treaty of Westphalia the traditional statist approach to international relations and unquestioned power of states disintegrated. The Westphalia treaty heralded a new era in the global system, for the first time in history states became subjects of international law.

 Meaning to say states could no longer willy-nilly do what they please without international scrutiny under international law. This era marked a new era of global governance. Some may refer to it as a new era of global order. However, I beg to differ, I view this era as a new era of global ‘disorder’. However, it should be noted that this global ‘disorder’ was somehow more organized than in the previous years. This era marked the era of multi-lateralism. An era of multi-lateral institutions became the order of the day. On a global level the United Nations, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Tribunal and other special tribunals were established. On a regional and continental level many institutions also saw the light of day. Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), European Union (E.U) ECOWAS, MAGREB UNION and the African Union also came into existence. The discourse about resolving conflicts through peaceful means became so popular. The era of High Table Syndrome became a reality of the day.

 UN special envoys and peace keeping missions were deployed in various hot spots be it in Africa, Latin America and Middle East. It was the era of Boutros Boutros Ghali and Koffi Annan being the big men responsible for bringing world peace. As the UN officials set on the High table they ordered the UN forces to intervene in Kosovo, Eritrea, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and East Timor amongst a host of other troubled areas. This era saw non-state actors actively involved in issues that were dominantly perceived to be in the arena of states. Surprisingly, as the 1994 genocide was raging on in Rwanda statesman were sitted at the High table drinking orange juice and bottled water at the UN level. As women were being raped, abused and murdered in cold blood in Serbia-Herzegovina and Srebrenica the world stood aloof. Men clad in expensive Giorgio Armani suits, wearing expensive …perfumes and deodorants were silent about issues that matter. Women wearing expensive make ups were also quite when the whole world was being torn apart. The same happened in Mozambique during the Mozambican civil war, so was the situation in Angola. As Zimbabwe was ‘burning and crushing’ the political elites were locked in endless debates at various SADC summits. As the political elites were drinking bottled water and orange juice, ordinary Zimbabweans were wallowing in poverty. Our hearts were shattered hearing that Zimbabwe had fallen victim to cholera. We could not believe ourselves as a nation that in this 21st Century Zimbabwe could be plagued with a cholera epidermic. As we drank unsafe water from unprotected wells in the city of Harare, politicians were drinking Mineral water in 5 star Rainbow Hotel. One may ask are our politicians sincere and sensitive to our problems. As many political opponents were at each other’s throat in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe politicians in the Inclusive Government (IG) were shaking hands at a colourful launch of a Peace Indaba at the once famous Sheraton Hotel. Indeed they were bluffing! They sat on the High table and promised us ‘false peace’!

As the Syrian crisis rages on statesman and diplomats are constantly locked at the UN level and in hotels in Syria. Whilst they debate the Syrian crisis they drink bottled water whilst blood is being spilled outside the verandah of their hotels. Why has the world suddenly become addicted to the high table syndrome instead of really addressing issues from a localized standpoint. As long as we roll red carpets for our politicians to step on, as long as we stage a high table for them, the more we will justify their domination and oppression over us. The quicker we say enough is enough the better. The sooner we take the leaders to the grassroots to experience  our  daily struggles the gunshots, violence, cholera, burst sewer  pipes and our poverty, the sooner they will change for the better. In the words of one writer ‘Put the politicians on a minimum wage and watch how things will change’. In my words I also argue that take away the privilege of a high table, with bottled water and Orange juice and watch how responsive politicians will be to our problems.


3 thoughts on “High Table Syndrome

  1. On a smaller scale, we call this high table syndrome the worskhop syndrome. An era of endless workshops, seminars, conferences, where huge amounts of sitting allowances, per diems and T & T are given the partipants, who eat breakfast, take coffe breaks where high rich content pastry is served with cold chcocolate drinks, tea etc, have buffet lunch, another round of coffee break while they sit down drawing plans and timetables that will come to nothing, laugh ha ha ha over boring jokes and they shake hands and heads like lizards tellling themselves they are working for the good of the country. It is these same uni/bi polar globalised hegemonies that pass down the blue prints to us in Africa, with grants and loans and conditions attached. The blue prints must be dissected beofre it becomes workable hence the workshops. BTW, I doubt if the US comands that enviable position of unipolar. China is fast on the heels if she has not yet overtaken the US. The wolrd is now bi-polar. There are lots of stakers and contenders in the game and we might soon have multi-polar. Your article is excellent. 🙂

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