ZIMBABWE: A DIPLOMATIC APPROACH


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Alicia Moral in the 8Enise (Encuentro Internacional de Seguridad) in 2014

Zimbabwe, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a colonial past and years of political problems behind, is the new destination of Alicia Moral Revilla, the new ambassador of Spain in Zimbabwe Malawi and Zambia. Since May, she has been the representative of our country there while fulfilling her desire of returning to Africa, her first diplomatic destination.

She started the diplomatic career in Tanzania, where she was posted from 1991 to 1994. After, she worked in Indonesia (1996-1998), The Netherlands (1998-2003), Bulgaria (2005-2008) and is now in Zimbabwe. Ms. Moral has also worked in the the OECD in Paris from 2008 to 2012. Her extensive experience in the diplomatic corp has provided an excellent background to conduct a certainly interesting interview focused on the relations between Spain and Zimbabwe as well as on the current situation of the latter.

But, what does the diplomatic work consist of in a country like Zimbabwe? A variety of functions are assigned to an ambassador. Ms. Moral is the voice of Spain in the state and has to enhance its visibility in official and bureaucratic actions, such as sending reports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or participate in the meetings organized by the European Union, and in cultural ceremonies, for example organizing cultural events. Another function is to be the mediator between the government and Spanish people in Zimbabwe, either residents or tourists; she is in charge of legal procedures and problems with documentation. But Alicia also works in the opposite direction; Zimbabweans that want to travel to Spain have to request their visas to the embassy in Harare, the capital.

However, it is curious that a diplomat with so many tasks is posted to a country like Zimbabwe, with whom Spain does not have a prolific relation, either political or economic, and where there are not many Spanish residents. Ms. Moral firstly gave an apparently simple response: “because Spain is an important country within the international community”. Nevertheless, this does not only mean that is relevant in multilateral organisations and decisions, but also that has huge rivalry among other powers. Zimbabwe, despite suffering a rather complicated situation, it is considered a regional power and Ms. Moral highlighted that the most important countries of the EU have their representation there: UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Romania and Check Republic as well as the so called emergent countries, the BRICS. Considering all this and the importance of “soft power” nowadays, “Spain has to be represented and defend the interests and values of the European Union and of the country”.

Additionally, not only the present situation is important; it is essential to have far-sighted initiatives and that’s why Spain is maintaining its relation with Zimbabwe. The economic and political forecast of the country is very positive and maybe in the future a business partnership is possible. Zimbabwe has great potential and, as Ms. Moral explained, “there will be lots of opportunities for Spanish companies in sectors like renewable energy, infrastructures, tourism, water…”. And that is why diplomatic relations are essential.

Still, the current political situation is far from optimistic. President Mugabe has been in power for the last 20 years and he, who first presented himself as a “freedom fighter”, has taken advantage of his position, for example expropriating of farms without compensation, and is responsible of massive human rights violations. Zimbabwe is surely “a rich country in terms of natural and human resources” as Ms. Moral emphasized. For example, the level of education is much higher than those of other African countries and there are plenty of natural resources such as gold, diamonds, metals, sugar, tobacco, maize, etc. However, she outlined that many reforms are necessary to attract foreign investment to take advantage of this richness and to increase the development level as income reaches the people. But these people alone cannot make the change; growth will only come if the government makes these needed new policies.

Mugabe is still in power but, regarding his last actions, the international community believes that now the government is seriously committed to make reforms to develop its economy and to implement a new and fairer constitution. That is why Spain is taking steps to strengthen its diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe through Alicia Moral, who has experience in the field and in Africa. In our globalised world, there is an increasing need of soft power and Spain, as well as the international community, is aware of this fact, also bearing in mind that the most promising continent right now in terms of new economic opportunities and growth is Africa. The world must keep an eye on Zimbabwe’s political context to see if the expected growth is real or if, lamentably, the country remains stuck in its unstable and complicated situation.

By Cristina Huergo

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