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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Are diplomats doing a good job?
Sir Edward Clay
How can diplomats improve the way they work? Are you happy with the way foreign diplomats in your country operate?

Some feel diplomats are humble public servants, quietly serving their communities by trying to administer efficient public services in their local diplomatic offices, while promoting business and trade.

Others argue that they are overpaid and under-worked bureaucrats, offering poor and choatic services, while giving partisan advice to ministers and cutting deals with personal business associates.

What experiences have you had with your local diplomatic office? Were you impressed or disappointed? Are diplomats still worth their salt?

Send us your views and experiences using the form on the right. Or you can send us an SMS text message to +44 77 86 20 20 08. If you would like to take part in the Africa Have Your Say radio programme on Wednesday 23 August at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number. It will not be published.


This debate is now closed, thank you for your comments

We need to understand is that the diplomats are in our countries to represent their country. They work for their countries and follow their country's policies and interests. We should not worry about how much they make, over/under worked etc, at the same time we shouldn't let them get involved in our affairs. Lately, we have seen them interfering our domestic policies and they argued they are donors and should say something about how their money is used, I would say "NO" that is not your role. You can donate the money through the UN or other non-governmental organisation, who can monitor the projects.
Abdullahi, Columbus, Ohio, USA

African diplomats are supposed to be cultural, social, political and economic envoys of their countries in countries of accreditation. However what we see is that the opportunity given them is just a privilege to earn high salaries in foreign exchange and create a new lifestyle for themselves. And they do this with impunity because the diplomatic service is a mafia with the envoys protected by civil servants and government officials who they pay to protect them against action that can be taken against them when they fail to live up to expectation. In fact, African countries should use the greater part of the foreign money spent on diplomats to carry out positive development projects that will benefit the poor.
Ben Cudjoe, Guildford, UK

Smith Hempstone, former Washington Times editor-in-chief, was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya by President George Bush. From 1989-1993, he was intimately involved in bringing multiparty democracy to that East African republic. His tenure there was controversial. While in office he heard of at least two plots by the Kenya government to have him assassinated. While a "thorn in the flesh" to the establishment, he was well-loved by the wananchi (citizens) of Kenya and on several occasions witnessed pep rallies for him outside the Nairobi embassy, an event unheard of for U.S. Ambassadors anywhere in the world. Upon leaving Kenya, Kenyan lawyer-activist, Paul Muite wrote to Hempstone the following letter:. You have been a comrade in arms in the struggle against injustice, a struggle for human dignity and self-respect. I want you and Kitty to know that some of us are aware it has not always been easy for you to do what you have done. Some day the Kenyan people will be able to accord you the acknowledgement you deserve for the role you have played in the second liberation. It is no exaggeration that without your input, we might not have been able to turn the corner we have. No matter what now happens, things will never be the same again. Take pride in the contribution which you have personally made.
Sarah, Sydney, Australia

In everything, you have the good and the bad. So also, are some of these so called diplomats. Some of them actually do a good job while others have an I don't care attitude towards the people they are suppose to represent. The good ones should be commended for their hardwork and dedication while the bad ones should be weed out. Some of them focus more on their personal business and gains than actually doing what they are appointed to do. Again, the so called bad eggs amongst them have god fathers in the government which makes even difficult to weed them out. While some diplomats responds to the needs of their citizens at the speed of lightning, others will sit back and allow their citizens to waste away.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

I am pleased by how all US and British diplomats have been working here in Kenya. Most "worried" politicians always think they are going overboard by commenting on issues affecting us.What they should do with all the passion is to work with the poor people at the base/villages.This will uplift the standards of living.Dealing with government should be in official capacity and in monitoring how donor aid is spent.They should boost better relationship with people to a large extent than with proud government officials.
Job Egalaha, Nairobi, Kenya

Some diplomats play a very important role in our society while other are menace to society.
Francis Chibwinja, Kitwe, Zambia

I am disappointed by these called diplomats for they care for their own interests than their work, Of course they are overpaid, offering poor and chaotic services, while they were supposed to show the light and a good example to the managing and poor African politicians. An adage says, he who goes to Rome does like the Romans” just they are! Some of them are even showing the interest of being corrupted! Especially those working with the UNHCR
None, Rwandan in Cameroon

Kenya is a good case study where diplomats have performed an excellent job.When they cough,the government listens.They were able to successfully help create a multi-party system against the wish of the ruling elite in the early 90`s(Read Smith Hempstone,the US envoy by then).More recently there relentless effort has oiled the fight against corruption.
Evans, Nagasaki, Japan.

Diplomats position in Africa is nothing but to feel the post for foreign requirement. African diplomats need extensive training such as human relation. Anyway, it depends on individual how they perceive the job as human relation. Nigeria diplomats are there for themselves. The best of Nigeria diplomat now is the Nigeria Ambassador in The Gambia. It is amazing the job this ambassador is rendering to the citizen of Nigeria. She needs to be giving the best ambassador in Africa. I visited The Gambia from United States, the citizen of Nigeria were giving her credit. She always there when there is a problem with our people. She is a good representative to the country. This is my opinion I think the guys do not care about their job because they lack the sense of communication. As a lady ambassador she knows what folks need to in terms of need. I am a Nigeria I have dealt with our embassy for years. The diplomats in the embassy with Nigeria in United States was nightmare. The only one I can say that he is doing his job professionally is the passport officer Dr. Anso in New York office. Agatha Benson
Agatha Benson, Birmingham, Alabama, United States

Most diplomat are not doing well in their respective jobs since they turn to pretend with issues with their respective zone of location. I can't consider them to be efficient public servant's since they fail to speak on the truth about our economic situations, problems with wrong presentation of figures on inflation, and poverty level in Africa. They are good promotes of personal, governmental businesses and trade. One of such, is the country director of the world Bank in Ghana. At many fora and occasions, had I got to to question his statement that he makes about Ghana's economy and its poverty level, respective of the way we want to progress in the education of our youth. In conflict zone I will give them 100%credit for good work since information and its presentations is correct. they are worth their salt in conflict zone. they are quiet servants
Noah Nash, Cape Coast, Ghana

I believe that just like their governments in their respective countries, African diplomats are on permanent holidays. I believe a lot of overhauling is urgently necessary. Just a few months ago, a friend of mine wished to prolong the validity of her passport which was due to expire shortly afterwards. The first problem was to reach the Cameroonian Embassy in Bonn by phone. It appears no one goes to work there. Sometimes it's like a lottery to get someone on seat. The phone is permanently engaged and the moment the line goes through, nobody is available to take the call. This went on for days. When you eventually get there, you do not feel welcome. the workers are very rude and sometimes ask for imaginary fees. It is really a pity!!
Musa, Frankfurt

Their work depend of the environment in which they operate, in such a corrupt one even the most dedicated of them often can not swim against the current. Their performance is often below average.
Ayind, Congolese in the USA

There are all kinds of diplomats. I often find western diplomats (both in and outside Africa) easily accessible unlike (some) African diplomats who are underpaid and certainly not humble and extremely unforthcoming. But then again, given that I work on Cabinda, one can't really blame African diplomats for taking an active interest in Cabinda.
Babatunde Taiwo, Cabinda

Absolutely not. I have visited the Nigerian Embassy in London too many times and yet even with improvements being made, they are still behind on very basic protocols and good customer (citizen) service. I am unimpressed as the attitude they hold is one of "they are doing us a favour" thus inaction is the name of the game. If you are not privileged, they frustrate and hinder every progressive step that you are trying to take. For them, time, urgency, professionalism and patriotism are outside their radar, yet they see these basic processes all around them in Europe !
Tony Oraisa, Ibadan, Nigeria

It is difficult to judge their performance levels as often, we do not know what their mandate is. What exactly does representing one's country mean? However, observing the goings-on at the African Union, it is clear that some Ambassadors are here to frustrate certain agendas. There is no clear criteria for selection of Ambassadors - therefore, some are recipients of political favours, others are sent off to various countries to keep them out of the heart of national politics etc. So, with such disparate backgrounds, there is hardly a shared commitment to duty and issues. They turn up late for meetings, make a lot of noise instead of having coherent debates and arguments. Also, there seems to be lack of understanding that they are here to represent the interests of their respective country folk. They fail to cultivate relationships with their citizens in the respective countries. E.g. here in Addis which has a large African expatriate community, it is rare to hear of embassies having briefings or meetings with their citizens. It is not clear what services are offered by the embassies and some are rather hostile in their service delivery. It all reflects on their respective government cultures. Let diplomats have clear, public mandates and their citizenship at their respective posts should be polled by governments regularly regarding service delivery.
Anonymous, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Most African diplomats lack the requisite diplomatic skills needed to undertake their duties because our leaders appoint their cronies to these positions.If the rightful and qualified individuals were appointed, African leaders will not need to waste tax money on travel just to sign simple documents when we have diplomats stationed all over the world.
Ouborr Kutando, Ghana

Is it really necessary to attend a conference in order to issue visas in an efficient manner, or to represent one's country's interest in another country? Aren't these people supposed to be familiar with the basics of diplomacy? And why do we always seem to believe that these expensive talking shops are a substitute for efficient public services?. In any event, how necessary are most of our so-called embassies? If they exist to promote trade and investment, for example, does it matter that very few African countries have the basic capacity to trade, or the infrastructure to encourage investment? Aren't most of them just another arm in our infamously complex webs of patronage?
Akpan, Kent, UK/Nigeria




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