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Citizens’ diplomacy can stabilise Lesotho



It has become fashionable for Basotho to run to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for assistance whenever there are national challenges.  As an independent country and a nation with proud conflict management strategies we do not make any attempts at all to manage our challenges but continue to approach SADC even in mundane issues like simple election disputes.

We have failed to learn from our history that was bequeathed to us by our Great King Moshoeshoe I.
Moshoeshoe I left a rich legacy of conflict management strategies. These are strategies that our King would deploy whenever there were major conflicts facing the nation.

We have consistently relied on SADC even though this structure has more often than not divided us and dismally failed to unite us. No country in this region has been so committed to subjecting its sovereignty to SADC than Lesotho.
This is despite the fact that nowhere in the world has a regional body failed to bring peace and stability in a country like Lesotho. SADC has never treated Lesotho as an equal partner. We are seen as a junior partner. Too often Lesotho is not taken seriously.

Failure of SADC diplomacy
SADC like any regional body is a creature of governments. It is a collective security structure that serves member states as equal sovereigns. It is not created to manage domestic conflicts.  It has its structure that deals with security and politics called the Organ of Politics Defence and Security (OPDS). It operates at the first track level (that is government level) of conflict management where it uses force and power politics.

The OPDS uses a power based approach for any conflict. For example, Article 4 of the SADC Treaty says the objectives of the Organ (OPDS) are to achieve peace and security in the region, observance of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes by negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

Judging from many conflict cases in the region, the Organ has been relatively successful. The question is why do Basotho consistently rely on SADC to manage its domestic conflicts?
I will cite a few examples to illustrate why SADC’s first track approach has relatively failed Lesotho. It may be recalled that the Organ was not able to prevent the first interventions in both the DRC and Lesotho by some member countries.

Both these interventions were claimed to have been conducted on behalf of SADC. However, the evidence was not presented to justify this claim.
The present political standoff in the DRC where President Kabila has refused to step down after the end of his Constitutional two terms appears not to have warranted SADC intervention.

The ongoing conflict in Mozambique between the government and opposition is another case in point. Since January 2016, over 100 people including MPs have so far died as a result of civil war.  In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malawi is currently housing more than 12 000 refugees from Mozambique. In all these cases SADC has not intervened.

It has become very clear that first track strategies cannot solve Lesotho’s conflicts. Therefore, SADC engagement of power based and rights mediation cannot assist Lesotho.
In power based mediation there is a normative expectation that security and other needs are best served through the taking care of personal relationships particularly those with individuals who wield greater power and resources since those are the people who are expected to make the decision required to manage conflict affecting the larger community.

In these societies, conflict is managed through constant reliance on coercive instruments of the state.
Instead of the state resorting to mediation to establish the underlying causes of conflict, these authorities elected to use the power-based approach which determines who is more powerful, implying that the stronger party should get to determine the outcome.
This is where SADC and its governments are located. This approach therefore fails to address the underlying causes of political conflict.
The other equally popular approach that is used by first track players (governments) is the rights based approach which places much emphasis on legal rights in conflict management.

Rights-based strategies are based upon an organisation or society’s laws, norms and values. In a given situation, the decision is made by using some independent set of criteria to determine fairness or which party’s claim is more legitimate.
Democracy is also based on rules. But this does not mean that democracy with its laws can be successful in managing conflicts.
In Lesotho politicians tend to overload the courts of law with their intra-party conflicts so are most governments.
We also know however, that in court, there is no deadlock. This approach does not provide us with a win-win solution that the country is currently facing.
Laws can provide international legitimacy for a time to the current regime in power as we have now become accustomed to. The question is what next?
We can shout how right we are over each other, but if we still fail to address deep rooted sources of our conflict we have not yet started.
While deeper sources of our conflict are resisted in the name of political supremacy over one another our instability will never cease.
For instance, multiparty elections may serve to deepen existing divisions, with the winning group taking the prize of state power with little sense of responsibility for other groups. The current Mphaphi Phumaphi report is a case in point.

Phumaphi Report
The Phumaphi report advocated for a strictly rights-based approach. The report is so explosive in its content and treated Lesotho like a Bantustan to say the least. The report was never intended to make peace and manage conflict but to fuel more conflict.
The report among its major recommendations was the dismissal of the head of the Lesotho military Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. This was unheard of in the modern century.

I doubt whether there is any country in this region that could agree with such a recommendation.
Some of its recommendations could not be made for an independent, democratic country. With these recommendations, SADC surely exceeded its mandate that of peacebuilding and respect of sovereignty.

The insistence of the SADC-OPDS for the removal of Lieutenant General Kamoli was not only divisive but has left Lesotho and Basotho divided.
Basotho have an opportunity whether to implement the SADC recommendations or engage in constructive reforms and nation building.
Unfortunately, while writing this article, on the morning of Tuesday September 5, 2017, there was a shootout at or near the offices of the LDF Commander. The Commander, Lieutenant General Motšomotšo, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Hashatsi were fatally shot.

It is not clear how these fatal shootings took place, but the Brigadier and the Colonel were mentioned in the Phumaphi report.
Unless some confidence mediated strategies are found, this report is still going to cause more deaths, divisions and further conflict in Lesotho.
It is for this reason that we advocate for confidence-building mediation or what is commonly known as the second track or citizens’ diplomacy since the first track has failed Lesotho as discussed above.

The importance of citizens’ diplomacy
Unlike the above two approaches, this approach seeks to reconcile the needs, desires and concerns of the parties involved in conflict. Therefore, it can be argued that the confidence building approach emphasises the “understanding of motivations driving each party to the conflict — their interests, including basic human needs, as well as values and context of cultural influences and individual experiences.

This model is much preferred than the above two. While we do not invalidate the salience of both the power and rights approaches, since they have a role to play, the confidence building approach is integrative and sustainable because it produces a win-win solution.
The approach is designed for parties who have a need to create or maintain healthy relationships. Both the current government and the opposition can work harmoniously within this model by discussing the issues that faced them and express their interests, values and needs that they bring for discussion.

This model would discourage them from focusing on competitive measures and zero-sum solutions rather than win-win solution. It is only through this approach that the Phumaphi recommendations can be implemented.
Lesotho has used a similar approach before and we have no doubt that the employment of this approach can pay dividends to the country. Just a recap of past examples; in 1998, Lesotho then established through a special Act of parliament the Interim Political Authority Act of 1998.

It was through this legislation and the IPA structure that the Independent Electoral Commission and a new electoral system were enacted. The political parties achieved consensus on a new electoral model for Lesotho through negotiations.
Though the processes of negotiations were protracted and difficult, the achievement of consensus was a remarkable achievement as it had significant potential to stabilise Lesotho politically.

It placed Lesotho in the company of only a small number of African states that have managed to develop a home-grown electoral model through internal negotiations.

Conflict management in Lesotho is not a new feature. It has been a way of life since the early 19th century during the reign of King Moshoeshoe I. In fact, it was during this period when Basotho perfected their own second track diplomacy.
It was this strategy that earned Moshoeshoe I much respect. It is for these reasons that current conflict and animosities in Lesotho could be managed.
Moshoeshoe I and his people first realised that they share a common destiny and that they were all interdependent and therefore had a joint responsibility.

It was this realisation that made them aware that problems must be shared together by all parties no matter how difficult they might appear to be. It was in this regard that they coined a phrase like “Motho ke motho ka batho” meaning that our humanity makes us all human.
The phrase made people to conceptualise the fact that they must work together to solve their social problems because that makes them fully human.
This also produced another phrase, “Ntja-Peli- Ha- ehloloe – Ke – Sebata”, meaning that, if joint effort is exerted, nothing can defeat the nation. In all these cases various levels of society were involved from the chief to the common man in order to build sustainable peace.

This approach can still work between the government, the opposition and everybody else at the grassroots level if we try harder to solve our social problems in an amicable way.  SADC cannot solve our national problems; only Basotho can do that. We did this in 1998. With more political will we can still do that in future.

It would be better to engage in Constitutional reforms first before attempting to deal with recommendations from the Phumaphi report.
Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was acutely aware that the security sector needs a second track and an incremental method not a top down first track approach.  In fact, an African Union expert who came to address the security workshop was very clear about this. Regions have failed in many countries in the past. It is important to give the citizens approach another chance for reforms to stabilise Lesotho.

Dr Fako Likoti

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