24 February 2010

Lesotho: Guebuza Confident That Lesotho Will Overcome Crisis

Maseru — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, who is the current chairperson of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Troika for Politics, Defence and Security, is confident that the SADC strategy drafted by the Troika summit in Maseru on Sunday and Monday will help Lesotho overcome the prolonged crisis that followed the February 2007 parliamentary elections.

"We have a strategy and we need to test it. But I believe that it will contribute to the solution of the problems in this country", said Guebuza, addressing reporters, shortly before his return to Maputo.

Guebuza said he can understand the impatience of the Basotho people with the problems they are facing. He stressed that "this is the path that exists and it is the only one that we could find at this moment to tackle the problem. Of course our brothers are impatient. That is obvious. And we understand that, because someone who is impatient does not have the time to analyse processes".

That "impatience" came to light when, on Monday night, a group of members of the main opposition party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), led by Thomas Thabane, a defector from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), attended the press conference that marked the end of the summit.

Some of them, disguised as reporters, posed questions to the panel, which included Guebuza, as Troika chairperson, King Mswati III, of Swaziland, in his quality as the outgoing chairperson of the Troika, and SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Salomao.

Some of the ABC members even asked for sanctions to be imposed on the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, and the suspension of his government from SADC, claiming that Mosisili's government is at the centre of the current crisis.

The Troika decided that the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), supported by a team of SADC facilitators. should meet with the parties to the political dialogue in Lesotho, in an inclusive and participatory process, to seek an agreement on a road map that includes the main points of difference and ways of solving them, and also to work out a calendar for the revision of the constitution and the electoral law.

It was also decided that the road map should be handed to Guebuza before the end of March.

But opposition members, particularly from the ABC, smarting from their heavy defeat in 2007, are skeptical about finding any solutions while the government of Mosisili remains in power. But if they expected the Troika to give Mosilili has marching orders, they were much mistaken

"We, as the Troika, we do not bring answers to this problem. The answers will come from the citizens of this country themselves. We came here to offer our support and encouragement for them to find the necessary answers", said Guebuza.

According to him, "the impatience of the citizens of this country comes from long ago. The fact that the Troika came to work in Lesotho, clearly shows SADC's concern to put an end to the tension in this part of the region".

Guebuza stressed that solving this problem will take time, and will call for major efforts on the part of the involved parties. "This is like a meal - in order to be brought to the table must first be cooked', he said.

Commenting on the mediation by the CCL, Guebuza said that this organization is an important moral authority in the country. About 90 per cent of the population of Lesotho are Christians, which is why Guebuza believes that the CCL can help find a solution.

Guebuza was wary of attempts to blame the problems on the Lesotho electoral system. This is a mixed system whereby 80 of the 120 parliamentary deputies are elected from single member constituencies in a first-past-the-post system, while the other 40 are elected from party lists by proportional representation

Guebuza noted that this system was not a novelty, and had been decided upon by the Lesotho people themselves.

"This is not the first time that Lesotho has used this system in elections", he said. "Now we must understand whether it is this system that brings problems or whether there is some other reason. On this issue we must understand that it is not a single person who can say that this was the mistake. The understanding should be shared by all Sothos".

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