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Embrace reconciliation



EUROPEAN Union (EU) ambassador to Lesotho, Christian Manahl, spoke passionately last week about the need for forgiveness and true reconciliation for Basotho. The two qualities of forgiveness and reconciliation could be crucial if Lesotho is to move away from decades of conflict and strife. Ambassador Manahl said “no political system can be stable without justice”.

“But justice requires careful judgment. Sometimes retribution causes or perpetuates divisions, and it is forgiveness and magnanimity that unifies a society and a nation.”Those are wise words indeed. The reality on the ground is that despite our heavy Christian ethos, we remain a deeply divided society. We are also a very vindictive society that is bent on revenge. We do not forgive easily.
That is why we have not forgotten who was on which side when violence erupted after the 1970 general election. The deep scars from that dark period of our history have remained unhealed, four decades later.

Yet, we would like to believe that Ambassador Manahl was not asking for the impossible. We can overcome our differences and forge a common future marked by genuine reconciliation and forgiveness. Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, who has had the privilege of observing Lesotho’s politics from a vantage point for decades, also appealed to Basotho to embrace the spirit of forgiveness.

Unless we embrace forgiveness, we run the risk of falling into a cycle of endless violence. Today’s victim will be tomorrow’s tormentor. We do not believe that is the right approach. As Lesotho prepares for the all-stakeholders conference next month, it is crucial that the political leadership embraces the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. That is not a daft request.

There must be an immediate cessation of hostilities. The victors in the last election in June must be magnanimous in victory and push for true national dialogue and reconciliation. For dialogue to prosper, we need the right political environment that is not marked by confrontation and animosity. The government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane must create such an enabling environment.

Unless such an environment is created, the SADC-driven reforms will be dead in the water. That would be tragic for Lesotho. The government says it needs every Mosotho in the country to participate fully in the crafting of a shared vision for Lesotho. It is fully cognisant that it cannot proceed with the reforms without the opposition playing ball.

That is why we must commend the government for dispatching a high powered delegation to South Africa last week to persuade the three exiled opposition leaders to return home.  The opposition must resist the temptation to adopt a hardliner stance. On its part the government must reassure the opposition leaders that they will not be harmed if they return home.

It must also demonstrate that it is committed to the process of dialogue by acceding to former deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s request to be paid his monthly allowance, unless if there are compelling reasons not to do so. Not so long ago, senior figures making up the current government were in exile themselves. An attempt by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led administration to plod on with the reform process stalled precisely because it could not coax Thabane and his allies who were in exile to participate in the process. The lesson is clear for Lesotho: We need everybody on board if we are to have meaningful dialogue on the way forward.

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