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Lesotho stands by Western Sahara – ’Maseribane

…government denounces foreign minister Makgothi’s mysterious foreign policy shift

Matiisetso Mosala

Lesotho government washed hands and negated what was announced by Moroccan media this week as ‘the new foreign policy shift’ to neutrality from the stance against illegal occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco.

The denounced shift is instigated by Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi.

Morocco’s press, on Tuesday this week, announced chances of opening a Moroccan Embassy being opened in Lesotho following a mysterious bilateral meeting between Makgothi and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita.

The foreign affairs ministry officials confirmed their boss’s had an ‘unsanctioned’ bilateral meeting in Morocco to the Centre on Friday, but refused to be named or quoted on record for fear of reprisals.

But, Communications Minister Thesele ’Maseribane yesterday, Friday December 13, told a press briefing Lesotho remains committed to supporting the western Sahara people fight for decolonization.

Reading the country foreign policy which he said remains unchanged, Maseribane said “Lesotho is a peaceful country whose foreign policy is based on principles of sovereign, equality of all its members, Peaceful settlement of disputes, no use of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any other state and the right to self-determination”.

“I would like to remind the nation and the entire world that this country has a clear foreign policy which is built on the Basotho Nation’s Founder Moshoeshoe’s belief that peace is his sister.

“We uphold the ‘Peace is my sister’ policy on the international market because we do not want to find ourselves compromised in any way or find ourselves in the middle of a war where we are concerned,” said ’Maseribane.

Unwilling to clarify whether Makgothi was mandated by the government on his trip to Morocco, he said the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane would shed more light on the matter as he still needed to consult with His Majesty Letsie III who is currently out of the country.

Lesotho has had a delegation visit in Morocco since 1999 and has held the same position on its foreign policy since then.

’Maseribane however admits that government is aware that there are misunderstandings on certain issues concerning the Lesotho’s foreign policy.

Of which he said the Prime Minister would further elaborate on.

He maintained that the country is still in friendly relations with Morocco generally, however, that on the matter at hand it maintains its foreign policy position.

’Maseribane further said Lesotho foreign policy also provides that “In order to effectively execute her Foreign Policy, the Kingdom of Lesotho shall continue to respect the primacy of the United Nations as the supreme global organization, and to that extent, she will not enter into any other arrangements that are inconsistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations”.

Makgothi’s shock decision to unilaterally change the country’s decision allegedly without the knowledge of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane follows a stunt he pulled on Lesotho’s independence day, October 4 attempting to change the country’s foreign policy on Western Sahara.

Then, in a note verbal to his Moroccan counterpart, Makgothi had said Lesotho has shifted its earlier hard stance against colonization of Western Sahara by Morocco towards neutrality to support amicable resolution of the Western sahara occupation issues at the United Nations.

A stance, immediately criticized by his colleague Professor Mafa Sejanamane who is Lesotho’s ambassador to the African Union.

Later on, the note verbal, after sparking controversy and Lesotho’s international friends questioning the move by the country, a statement was released by the Government Spokesperson Nthakeng Selinyane denouncing the change in foreign policy and announcing Lesotho stands firm in support of the people of Western Sahara against Moroccan occupation.

But, relentless Makgothi is reported in an audio clip that was leaked to the media by one Refiloe Sibolla, a Secretary in the Protocol Directorate at Foreign Affairs, to have gone on a mysterious bilateral trip to Morocco.

Sibiolla, in the audio, is recorded saying the Ministry never purchased any flight ticket for the Minister to go to Morocco.

She further reveals that the trip nor the foreign policy shifts announced in Morocco were not known by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Lesotho government.

Sibolla also implies in the audio that Makgothi could be unable to return back into Lesotho after taking a stance that violated the Southern African Development Community bloc position against the illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

But, the Foreign Minister, when contacted by the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism in October on the same issue ignored questions and said a note verbal directed to Western Sahara would be released by the country.

However, before going for publication on Friday afternoon Makgothi said he will talk to the centre upon his arrival in the country.

He also ignored questions about an allegation that he may have received an inducement to change the country’s foreign policy position towards supporting Morocco.

In the Moroccan media, Bourita is quoted as saying the agreement was to open forthcoming respective embassies to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The announcement—neutrality position—that has caused uproar in the Kingdom threatens to remove any ambiguity about Lesotho’s position on the Moroccan-Western Sahara relations and opens an alleged “promising new page in cooperation”.

“Lesotho has stood with the oppressed people of Sarahawi for the longest time and was correct in doing so,” said @Bitla_Le_Ahlame twitter account linked to Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro.

Clearly opposing Makgothi’s decision, Majoro said “I will not support the so-called new position of Lesotho and Morocco”.

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