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EU Ambassador speaks tough on Lesotho

Thuso Mosabala

BREAKING: The European Union Ambassador to Lesotho Christian Manahl has called on Basotho to emulate their founder, King Moshoeshoe I, he commented for his courage to forgive his enemies, “without which the Kingdom of Lesotho would not exist today”.

His Excellency Manahl was speaking at celebration of the Europe Day in Maseru earlier today (May 8, 2018).

“Last Friday I climbed Thaba-Bosiu, the mountain fortress of King Moshoeshoe I, and I reflected on the trying times when he and his people struggled to defend this Kingdom against Afrikaner colonialism and Zulu expansion,” he said.

Manahl said he also reflected about Lesotho’s recent history, “which is marked by military coups, coup attempts, oppression and assassinations.”

He was addressing tens of Lesotho political elites that included cabinet ministers, senior government officials and opposition leaders. Also present to honour the Europe Day were diplomats, academics and civil society representatives.

Europe Day is held in May every year and celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The day also marks anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of 1950, when the then French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a joint authority to oversee French and German production of coal and steel.

Albeit in a shorter timeframe, His Excellency Manahl observed Lesotho’s recent events resonated the European history he characterised of violence.

“… a history that has left orphans, widows and calamitous economic situation; a history of sharp inequalities between rich and poor, between men and women; a history of missed opportunities,” he said.

But at least at the time of Moshoeshoe I, Manahl said, it was a history of reconciliation and unity.

“Perhaps the Basotho nation can remember their founding father and at the same time learn from the experience of the European Union. Perhaps the time has come to put distrust and enmity behind you (Basotho) and to move from assassinations, bribery, coups d’état, demagogic rhetoric, enmity and floor crossings to a different political ABC – one of accountability, budgetary discipline, civil service reform, democratic principles, employment creation, fiscal balancing, good governance, health care and innovation”.

In line with the coveted reforms process, His Excellency observed it was all still “messy and confusing”.

He was however quick to note the momentum and spirit were there, “and it is time to pull all these initiatives together into a well-coordinated and focused process, which can bring real, tangible progress”.

Lesotho has, for decades, sunk in political instability characterised with deteriorated security and lawlessness, topping agenda of the Southern African Development Community for wrong reasons.

Of most importance, Manahl said perhaps it was time for the government and opposition to make a leap of faith, “and move from suspicion, distrust and resentment to a genuine, honest dialogue about how to overcome the divisions of the past and to work together for a better future, with the interests of the ordinary people in mind. That includes the victims of past violence, who have a right to express their generations, who long for jobs, modern education, and efficient healthcare, a life without fear and deprivation”.

In politics, Manahl said, there was a time for competition and time for cooperation.

“For Lesotho, this is not time for competition and posturing; this is the time for cooperation, for unity of purpose, for compromise, disclosure, forgiveness and reconciliation. Remember the remarkable gesture of your founding father Moshoeshoe I and his courage to forgive his enemies, without which the Kingdom of Lesotho would not exist today,” he said.

On behalf of the government of Lesotho, Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs Lebohang Hlaele said the country witnessed success of the EU, “which Lesotho is a direct beneficiary”.

“we hail this remarkable achievement that different nations with diverse identities and cultures have come together and given birth to this strong undeniable force that has and still continues to have a lasting impact in the livelihoods not only of the members of the European Union, but to the international community,” said the minister.

Commenting on history of the EU and Lesotho, Hlaele said the two have maintained a successful partnership for 42 years, “which has been highlighted by many visible achievements particularly the three main strands of political and policy dialogue, development cooperation and the trade relations”.

He said the partnership has benefitted Lesotho for vital assistance in terms of finding solutions for the country’s political and economic challenges.

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