Belligerent hawks should be stopped
EVERY last working Friday of the month, 40000 textile and garments industry workers knock-off at 12pm to queue in whatever weather conditions at various banks to earn their hard-earned salaries.
Last Friday was particularly significant because it was arguably the coldest day of the year. It was also significant for thousands of Basotho because that is when their empathy for these workers was at its most pronounced. The reason for the empathy? It is not hard to find; it is because their livelihoods are all in danger as well as those of the tens of thousands of dependents.
All because some parties in the seven-party coalition government had the temerity and kamikaze-like attitude to show the United States (US) the figurative middle finger despite with its billions of maloti in aid.
America’s ‘Sin’ For weeks prior to their murmuring reaching a crescendo, the two politicians, in particular the first one, had gone over the local media, radio, electronic and print, to label the US Ambassador a “terrorist” and “a CIA agent who is hell-bent on seeing the putsch of the present government like he did in Zimbabwe”. He went on to call for ultimate recall or expulsion of the diplomat from Lesotho. He went further to dare the diplomat that he was making it his own personal agenda to make the diplomat’s stay in Lesotho unbearable and do his utmost to expel him, by whatever means.
America’s “sin” is that for any foreign aid and co-operation with other countries throughout the world it insists on about 10 criteria for eligibility for its assistance that can be encapsulated in one catchword: “Enhancing Lives”.
These criteria can be listed as follows, in no particular order: (1) governance, (2) accountability, (3) free enterprise, (4) rule of law (5) human rights, (6) job-creation, (7) curbing (eradicating) HIV-AIDS, (8) healthy living, (9) judicial independence, (10) duty free access to the lucrative US market for certain Lesotho goods, notably textiles and garments.
Because the US insists on adherence to these criteria for eligibility for its assistance and co-operation, the two politicians felt that it was high time the diplomat be expelled from Lesotho for what they perceived to be conduct that is incompatible with his status and mission.
In the circumstances, the two politicians undertook to lead a massive protest march to, among others, call for the diplomat’s recall or expulsion from Lesotho. (Refer to Lesotho Times, 28 July 2016, “Coalition supporters to hold protest”). Voice of reason In the midst of all this hullabaloo, there emerged a voice of reason, in the form of the Democratic Congress (DC) Youth League. Incidentally, the DC is the biggest partner in the seven-party coalition government. The Youth League called for a sense of reason to prevail and urged government, if it saw valid reason for action, to engage the US diplomatically rather than to hound the envoy unceremoniously out of Lesotho.
The Youth League actually dissociated the main coalition party from the planned protest march perhaps sensing as it was later to declare, the magnitude of the impending disaster that might befall Lesotho should the planned march materialise.
Unfortunately, this clarion call by the Youth League fell on deaf ears as the main party declared over Radio Lesotho a day later, that it was going to rein-in the “errant” Youth League leadership for what, I term, a disciplined and well-informed sympathetic stand. The hawks in the coalition government had clearly won. We still nervously await the consequences.
Diplomatic precedence and tradition There are a number of international treaties and protocols that govern the conduct of diplomatic relations between countries and treatment of envoys of countries and international organizations in the receiving countries. Diplomats are by the very nature of their mandate a highly protected species, if you excuse the term. Grounds and premises of diplomatic missions situated on the land of receiving countries are internationally by treaties, considered inviolable.
Diplomats are not supposed to be terrorised, hounded and embarrassed by anybody while on a foreign tour of duty. They are accorded at all times, treatment that we, ordinary citizens, are not accorded. It is the responsibility of the receiving country to at all times, offer absolute protection to foreign envoys on their territory.it for any reason, a foreign envoy is deemed to have conducted himself in a manner incompatible with his status, the receiving country, as is protocol and tradition, is expected to invite or summon such a diplomat to its Foreign ministry to voice its concerns.
This is also after normal diplomatic channels of communications to raise the displeasure have failed. If all these interventions fail, such diplomats are given a certain time frame within which to leave the receiving country. Still this is done as a last resort in the event that the envoy’s home country has failed to rein in or recall the “offending” diplomat.
To my knowledge and recollection, Lesotho has done none of these about the US ambassador. Lesotho has not even once raised its displeasure let alone disagreement with the US envoy’s conduct. If anything, it has agreed to positively comply with the US’S concerns as encapsulated by the SADC decisions for implementation. This happened during US Independence Day celebrations.
That the threatened embarrassment of the US envoy is done by a senior member of the coalition government smacks of complicity in this unfortunate and disastrous march. It calls on the government to rein in the firebrands on the loose. Government has to demonstrate who is in control by nipping this uncalled for detrimental action in the bud.
Government’s duty to act decisively That this planned demonstration to hound the US envoy out of Lesotho is calculated to embarrass him cannot be denied. That this government’s silence and failure to rein in the belligerent war-like talk about the “terrorist” envoy weeks prior to this crescendo is also undeniable. That this is calculated move to demean not only the envoy but also the US in the eyes of the entire world is plain for all to see.
That this move is calculated to portray the US as a superpower that wants to play the world’s only policeman is clearly evident. That the planned move will be a dangerous self-inflicted mortal wound on Lesotho that could have been avoided is as clear as the fact that day follows night.
of the immense economic and other disastrous consequences of this utterly stupid move is beyond doubt. of the many negative ramifications of this dumb and bigoted move is indisputable.
In the light of the above, the only institution with the mandate, legislative and institutional capacity to thwart this is our government.
The likely domino effect Because the US is arguably the world’s only superpower with massive influence throughout the world, any withdrawal of US support, assistance and diplomats from Lesotho is likely to have a domino effect on the rest of the world with disastrous consequences. So Lesotho be warned: annoy the US at you own peril, and if the US sneezes the entire world catches a cold, as the oft-cited cliché goes.
Massive US aid to Lesotho As correctly pointed out earlier in this column and in the Lesotho Times comment, “Complicity in Silence” (28 July 2016), the US’S assistance to Lesotho is hugely immeasurable and massive. The US is a huge benefactor of Lesotho.
Briefly, on the US Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, that guarantees import free entry of textile and garments into the lucrative US market, depends 45,000 — off jobs. The US government supports Lesotho’s fight against HIV/AIDS through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Lesotho has benefitted and depending on the so-called enhancing lives requirement, stands to benefit hugely from the US Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) worth billions of Maloti.
The US also funds Jhpiego (male circumcision to prevent HIV/AIDS) and Population Services International in Lesotho, organizations that are geared to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. These are all services that are geared towards integrating health services in Lesotho. In addition, the US has for decades been providing Americans (Peace Corps Volunteers), mostly teachers, of goodwill to Lesotho including serving the rural parts of the country to uplift the lives of a vulnerable Basotho.
The huge Metolong dam that provides water for Lesotho’s urban centres including Maseru, the capital, is US funded project, so does the regularization of Lesotho’s entire land tenure system through the establishment of the Land Administration Authority (LAA) and the Commercial Division of the High Court that seeks to mainstream and fasttrack commercial cases to enhance Lesotho’s economic development by promoting investor confidence in our judicial system.
These are the benefits that this impoverished nation is likely to miss out on should be belligerent war-like talk from these bigoted selfish and inconsiderate myopic politicians be allowed to go on with their relentless prowl.
We, the innocent poor Basotho, are likely to wallow in poverty forever while they live in opulence unaffected by the stupid uncalled for ramifications of their wanton war-talk. If anything the US does not stand to lose anything by withdrawing from Lesotho but conversely Lesotho stands to lose hugely and permanently.
In conclusion, these belligerent hawks need to be stopped forthwith in their stupid tracks. They better beware as in Luke 17:1 that: “… but woe to anyone whom they (things that cause people to stumble) come”. I may add, the wicked shall incur the wrath of the Lord for they brought hunger, shame and suffering to their people by their reckless talk and actions.
US Ambassador to Lesotho Matthew Harrington.