Com­plic­ity in si­lence

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

IN this edi­tion, out­spo­ken Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress (LPC) fac­tion spokesper­son Bokang Ra­matšella has stated his in­ten­tion to hold a protest march to hound out of the coun­try United States Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho Matthew Har­ring­ton.

Mr Ra­matšella’s threats on Mr Har­ring­ton and other per­ceived en­e­mies of the gov­ern­ment have slowly, but surely, in­ten­si­fied with the LPC of­fi­cial de­scrib­ing the en­voy as a “ter­ror­ist”.

That an of­fi­cial from one of the seven gov­ern­ing par­ties has been al­lowed to rant and rave against the United States is not only un­for­tu­nate but dis­con­cert­ing. Sadly, Ba­sotho with no link what­so­ever to Mr Ra­matšella’s an­tics may be af­fected by his bel­liger­ence to a coun­try that has poured in lit­er­ally bil­lions in help­ing this coun­try fight dis­ease and de­pri­va­tion.

The United States is the only ma­jor Western power with a di­rect em­bassy in Le­sotho and one of the Moun­tain King­dom’s largest bene­fac­tors. The pro­grammes the Amer­i­cans have spon­sored over the years and con­tinue to bankroll in Le­sotho are too many men­tion.

How­ever, to give con­text to this col­umn, we will men­tion some. The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment sup­ports Le­sotho’s fight against HIV/AIDS through its Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gency Plan For AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR).

From 2006 to 2015, PEPFAR pro­vided over US$250 mil­lion to sup­port Le­sotho’s HIV/AIDS re­sponse.the Moun­tain King­dom has also ben­e­fited from United States’ Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) — an in­no­va­tive agency cre­ated by the US Congress in Jan­uary 2004 to re­duce global poverty through eco­nomic growth.

Le­sotho re­ceived its first five-year MCC grant in July 2007. The $362.5 mil­lion com­pact, among oth­ers, helped fund the con­struc­tion of Me­to­long Dam, as well as PEPFAR to mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive eco­nomic im­pact of poor ma­ter­nal health, HIV/AIDS, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and other dis­eases.

As if that were not enough, Le­sotho is el­i­gi­ble for trade pref­er­ences un­der the US gov­ern­ment’s African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) in 2016. AGOA gives duty-free and quota-free ac­cess to the US mar­ket to el­i­gi­ble Sub-sa­ha­ran African coun­tries. The leg­is­la­tion, which was re­newed for 10 years by US law­mak­ers last June, is meant to in­cen­tivise African coun­tries to open their economies and build free mar­kets.

How­ever, the main stick­ing point for Mr Ra­matšella is the Amer­i­cans’ in­sis­tence on “con­crete ac­tions” that ad­dress con­cerns about “im­punity and the rule of law” as well as im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions made by the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity Com­mis­sion of In­quiry.

As a re­sult, the Amer­i­cans could with­draw as­sis­tance to Le­sotho be­cause of th­ese con­cerns since the aid comes with con­di­tions there is po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in the coun­try.

Mr Ra­matšella re­cently told this pa­per, the warn­ing by the diplo­mat that Le­sotho risked los­ing trade and aid pref­er­ences un­der AGOA and MCC were “ter­ror­ist state­ments”. He wants the Amer­i­cans to con­tinue pour­ing in money with­out ask­ing ques­tions about ac­count­abil­ity and rule of law.

Un­for­tu­nately, that can never hap­pen any­where in this world. As they say: “You can’t eat your cake, and have it too”.

Un­for­tu­nately, the coali­tion gov­ern­ment is do­ing the na­tion no favours by their fail­ure to rein in Mr Ra­matšella. Many gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have been hid­ing be­hind the ex­cuse they had not heard Mr Ra­matšella mak­ing the in­cen­di­ary re­marks. The fee­ble at­tempts by the Demo­cratic Congress Youth League, as re­ported in this edi­tion, will con­vince few of the coali­tion’s sin­cer­ity.

The longer Mr Ra­matšella con­tin­ues to ha­rass the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador, the more it seems his ut­ter­ances re­flect the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion. Suf­fice to say, the pulling out of the Amer­i­cans would have ghastly con­se­quences for the coun­try’s eco­nomic for­tunes and well­be­ing of the pop­u­lace.

It thus be­hoves the coali­tion gov­ern­ment to elu­ci­date on its po­si­tion with re­gards to Mr Ra­matšella’s re­marks and live with the con­se­quences. Their fence sit­ting is fool­ing no one and do­ing the na­tion more harm than good.

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