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The limits of engagement: British foreign policy and the crisis in Zimbabwe

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This article examines how the British government has responded to Zimbabwe’s ongoing crisis. This case raises several wider issues for British foreign policy, most notably the question of how much leverage London can exercise on the international scene in general, and over relatively small and weak states like Zimbabwe in particular. Zimbabwe’s crisis also raises profound questions about the appropriate balance between bilateral and multilateral policies, and between engaging in public criticism and conducting so–called ‘quiet diplomacy’. While bilateralism clearly has not worked, multilateralism has revealed its own frustrations, especially given the reluctance of many African elites within a number of organizations to criticize President Mugabe’s policies. This reluctance threatens to unravel the British Labour government’s stated objectives in Africa while at the same time raising important doubts over the credibility of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and whether an ‘Africa moment’ can be discerned in the manner articulated by prime minister Tony Blair.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Botswana and University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. 2: University of Birmingham.

Publication date: 2002-07-01

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