First, it was postulated that there could be no marriage without courtship. In other words, power sharing, the marriage, was dependent on courtship, the cultivation of trust between the political parties in Guyana, namely the PNCR and the PPPC. What was being proposed was a union of consenting parties
Now the argument has been inverted. It is being advanced that there can be no trust unless there is some form of union. In other words, there must be a marriage before the two parties can trust each other. What is being now proposed is a match wedding.
It is easy to manufacture such forms of political simulations. But experience is not on the side of political matchmaking.
The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was not achieved by any matchmaking. It was preceded by seven years of on and off negotiations, and of course by the recognition that in a changed global political situation, the Great Powers wanted the disputes between the Nationalists and the Unionists settled quickly. In those seven years, trust was a tenuous currency. But enough trust was cultivated for the Good Friday Agreement to be signed.
The implementation of the accords proved problematic. Within two years, problems and divisions resulted. It took subsequent agreements in 2002, 2007 and 2010 to move the process painstakingly forward. What are the lessons for Guyana?
Firstly, trust has to be developed over a long period of time before any union can be cemented. It is nonsensical to speak about the building of trust by asking two incompatible parties to jump into bed with each other. The experience in Northern Ireland has established this as a fact.
The best example of how disastrous it can be to ask distrustful parties to share the same bed was in Zimbabwe. The power sharing agreement in that country was preceded by controversial and disputed elections which aggravated the political tensions in that country and deepened the divisions between the main parties. Following regional mediation, the country’s two main parties agreed to a power sharing deal. But the lack of trust saw tensions being transposed to the Executive. That power sharing agreement never worked effectively. In the end, Mugabe was able to discredit the opposition by having them under his wing. This shows the complete failure of a marriage that was arranged without the building of trust.
The situation in Northern Ireland illustrates another problem: the need for continuing process of building trust. The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement staggered like a drunk backwards and forwards, left and right. It took almost twelve years for the parties to reach consensus on what they have signed on to. This shows that merely participating in a structured process is not a sufficient condition for the building of trust.
In South Africa there were behind the scenes negotiations going on for years between the then imprisoned Nelson Mandela and the apartheid regime. That regime did not wake up overnight, free Mandela and then hold free and fair elections which created a power sharing government between the African National Congress and the De Klerk’s party.
No, there was a long process of building trust, first through secret talks between De Klerk and Mandela and later between the government and the ANC. There was then a further process of building trust, a protracted process of developing a Constitution that would have allowed for Black majority rule and for the economic protection of White South Africans. There was even a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that gave amnesty to those who committed grave atrocities provided that they confessed and told the truth.
There was a long process of building trust before the power sharing between the parties. But again, it is one thing to build and cultivate trust in courtship but it is another thing to sustain that trust in the marriage. The South African power sharing agreement collapsed. The marriage did not last long. The separation was fast and quick.
Those therefore who are proposing that the PPPC and the PNCR jump into bed in order to develop trust are setting the parties up for divorce, one that will be quick, nasty and costly to both sides.
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