Who is Alexander Rondos?

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Alex Roba

On January 1, 2012 the European Union/EU/ announced its intention to designate a new point man for the Horn of Africa. This came in the wake of a proposal to appoint an EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the sub-region, focusing in the first instance on Somalia, the regional dimension of the conflict and piracy, and eventually the development of action plans to support implementation of the Strategic Framework. For an organization such as the EU which is very much involved in the conflicts in the sub-region from Somalia to Sudan, the appointment alone might have seemed an act of serious attention. This is the more so because the EU is also a major provider of development aid to the sub-region. However, the new appointment suggests that there is in fact much more to say. The newly appointed EUSR has a dubious history and profile.

Note: I was encouraged to write this after I read a piece on Carl Bildt in the Current Analyst.com. A masterful interrogation of his business and political career, and on the complicated relationship between the two. It provided a new approach,different from the most common techniques used,as it examines the conduct of Western foreign policy through the prism of individual biographical accounts.

The case of Alexander Rondos

On January 1, 2012 Alexander Rondos, a Greek National, occupied the post of Special Representative to the Horn of African Region. The precursor to this is the EU Summit in November. The EU Development Ministers have met in Brussels on 14 November 2011 to discuss the situation in the Horn of Africa and exchange ideas about enhanced EU engagement on sustainable agriculture, food security and rural resilience in the region. The EU has long been concerned with the instability in the region which it says poses a growing challenge not only to the security of its peoples but also to the rest of the world. It has been involved in most of the high profile security interventions, ranging from actively involving in the peace processes in Sudan, particularly the Comprehensive Peace Agreement/CPA/, developing the Concept Note as well as financing the AU Mission in Darfur and doing all sorts of things including paying the salaries of parliamentarians in Somalia. By being everywhere the EU finds itself nowhere in the Horn of African region. In general terms having a clearly defined strategic framework are long overdue. This will definitely help to bring about better coordination and coherence.

The hope, not surprisingly, is that the EUSR for the Horn of Africa will contribute to developing and implementing a coherent, effective and balanced EU approach to piracy, encompassing all strands of EU action. The EU has been slow to recognize that to render its engagement more effective it must pursue a coordinated and comprehensive approach that will address the region's interlocked challenges. The crazy focus on piracy aside(to the detriment of other important security challenges), a coordinated and organized approach is in the interest of all stakeholders and helps to minimize the risk of overlapping and confused policies and approaches. Well and good, though the potential risk lies elsewhere. The approach is fine but the selection for the new position smells bad. No one can expect a balanced approach from the new EUSR.

It has been said that the European Council adopted a strategic framework for the Horn of Africa, which is to guide EU action for greater peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Ideally the new EUSR is ought to be responsible for a myriad of activities related to conflict management, development, peace and security issues in the sub-region covering several countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, South and North Sudan. But his formal role and previous practical engagement seem to be world apart. Some of the leads into the new EU Special Representative to the Horn of Africa seem worth pursuing, for example, the fact that he was close to the political establishment in Athens, Washington and Brussels, not to mention his British connections. Many analysts consider A. Rondos as an accessory in organizing popular uprisings and revolutions. Theirs is an extreme view, but not out of context. What makes his appointment particularly provocative is it came at a time when governments in the sub-region are apprehensive about the contagion effects of the uprisings in the Arab world. One might have thought that his history of connections with the African continent and his appointment by the EU would have helped to resolve any lingering debates and suspicion surrounding A. Rondos’s life, personality and political or diplomatic integrity.

So, then, who is Alexander Rondos. Alexander Rondos was born in 1954 in Tanzania, on the eve of decolonization in Africa. Except for a brief period of study in the UK and work in Greece, A. Rondos spent most of his life living and working in Africa. He has a lot of experience working on the African continent as an employee of mainly American and British Non-Governmental Organizations/NGOs/. It is this more complex account that should attract the attention of African analysts and policy makers. Alexander Rondos is a Greek diplomat with extensive experience in diplomatic negotiations around the world. He has held senior posts in the Greek Prime Minister’s office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as in the World Bank. He has extensive understanding of Eastern African politics, having worked on several occasions during his career in the sub-region and beyond. Whatever one thinks of the specific biographical hypothesis used by the EU, it makes it difficult to ignore some of the more unsettling patterns one identifies in Alexander Rondos’ background.

A careful reading of the Rondos papers gives a more complicated picture of the man than the EU would like us to believe.  Some of the most conspicuous of these are A. Rondos’s sustained focus on 'democratic' upheavals and color revolutions; his pervasive urge in promoting Western strategic interests; and his tendency to measure evil and good through Western political values alone. If the EU is yearning for a’ balanced’ approach, then, this is not the way to get one. And if the region and its organizations such as IGAD and the AU are convinced that they will be beneficiaries of a coordinated and balanced approach,then they must try to make their voice heard in defining the relationship. 

It is unsettling to know Alexander Rondos's past, for it seems to describe something quite different from what an organization like the EU usually does. The Rondos case begins with his long cherished loyalty to Greek and emotional attachment to the US and the UK. But this multi-layered service and loyalty suggest that his positions and views had complicated origins as well. Even if one would like to suppress some of the more controversial details one had gleaned from Rondos’s past, it is pretty much clear that they were a major influence in his recent appointment.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 February 2012 10:10



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