Church Observers Say Lesotho Election “well organised (and) peaceful,” Bishops Advocate for Peace and Stability

CANAA || Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla || 02 March 2015

Church Observers at the just concluded snap election in Lesotho have described the process as “well organized and peaceful” and confirmed that “there was no tension before or during the elections.”

There have been two teams of Church observers at the election, namely, the national team comprising of some 40 lay persons and clergy drawn from the local Church registered under the Justice and Peace Catholic Church (JPCC) in Lesotho and the international team of representatives from the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA).

The election is aimed at resolving political tensions after an attempted coup last year and some 1.2 million people were expected to part in the election as registered voters.

Speaking about Saturday, the day of the election, Bishop José Luis of Manzini diocese shared on his blog, “The first thing we noted was the relaxing mood in the people. We had read (more than heard) that there was “tension in Lesotho” but we never came across any.”

Members of the IMBISA team acknowledged with appreciation the cooperation accorded to them from the election officials saying, “In every place we were welcomed and provided with any information we would require. They would write down who we were, where we were coming from and explain that to everyone in the room.”

The team cited weather inconveniences outside Lesotho’s capital Maseru, saying, “We had heavy rains and wind for some time. This might have affected people who had to walk long distances to their polling station.”

“It was interesting to see that they came across just a few spoiled ballots, a sign that people are used to voting and clearly knew what they were supposed to do,” the IMBISA team shared their observation after stopping at a polling station to witness the counting of votes after 5 p.m. on Saturday.

According to Aljazeera, “The election commission said on Sunday that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party was ahead with wins in 35 out of 80 voting districts.”

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops of Lesotho issued a pastoral letter calling on various stakeholders to work towards peace and national stability by prioritizing the local inhabitants of Lesotho and ensuring the basic rights and freedoms.

Among those addressed by the Catholic Bishops include the political leaders, the Basotho, security agencies, members of the Fourth Estate (Media) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Lesotho.

Below is the full text of the message of the Catholic Bishops of Lesotho on the Saturday snap election.

LESOTHO CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE (LCBC)

MESSAGE REGARDING THE FORTHCOMING NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN LESOTHO ON THE 28TH FEBRUARY, 2015

Peace with Peace

Our fellow Basotho!

We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Lesotho meeting at our 2015 Annual Episcopal Conference greet you all as Basotho as well as your various political leaders. May the peace of the Lord and Jesus Christ be with you (Baf. 1:2).

This is a critical period to all of us as the Basotho nation. All political leaders are in the same mood as they canvass to the people. Likewise, the nation is eager for change and an improved climate of service delivery. People are aspiring for efficiency and effectiveness in public services.

Our responsibility as spiritual leaders in the Catholic Church is to remind you that there are fundamental principles that unite us as Basotho both as one nation and as believers. Those principles and tenets that should be observed and respected are but not limited to:

  1. a) Basotho and Lesotho first
  2. b) Peace, security and stability for the country
  3. c) Basic Human Rights
  4. d) Freedom of religious affiliation and religious worship
  5. e) Respect for the rule of law
  6. f) Respect for the Constitution
  7. g) Administration of Justice
  8. h) Economic Justice
  9. i) Opposition in Parliament
  10. j) Good Governance (its knowledge??)
  11. k) Financial Accountability
  12. l) Transparency
  13. m) Respect for institutions of Governance, namely A Family, the Monarchy, Chieftainship, Parliament, Government, Judiciary and so on…

It is our understanding that Democracy and democratic rule means the rule of the people by the people and for the good of the people. We should emphasize that “for the people implies for the benefit of the public, for the common interest and not for the sole benefit of the rulers.

For the people denotes generally for all the populace inclusive of the ordinary person as opposed to the minority or the selected few. It does not mean for solely the rulers or those in power. Democracy is a system that should benefit the people who have put the rulers in positions of authority and power.

This type of governance does not vary with our traditional believes, customs or practices. Democracy does not erode our identity. Our norms are instead rooted in democratic principles; and deepened more as we respect our culture and values as the followers of Jesus Christ.

As we are treading the path towards the National Assembly Elections. We have noted with disappointment that the already mentioned principles are being undermined by some political leaders and some sections of the security forces. Let us be mindful that “… the government that is unto war with itself stands to perish. If a nation fights itself, that nation is abyss and cannot stand” (MK 3: 24-26).

As we speak to you, we are immensely perturbed by incidences (skirmishes) of attacks among the security forces. This is not only unfortunate but indeed treacherous and betrayal when the armed forces of one and the same country fight each other. Be aware that you are security forces that belong to the same country; and not only that; but you have taken an oath of loyalty to one and the same Crown of His Majesty, as Basotho. Moreover, you are the children of God believing in Jesus Christ cf. (Bag.3:26).

Ever since the day for the polls was announced by His Majesty the King, we have observed how busy the Independent Electoral Commission has been in preparing for the planned snap Elections. We have noticed a number of political parties organizing their campaigns peacefully.

We have further seen church and civil society organizations providing educational and training programmes for the electorate. Moreover we should commend the presence in Lesotho, of the representatives of the international community that are observing these preparatory processes.

Subsequent to the announcement of the day for the General Elections, there have however been shocking incidences coupled with inciting utterances, coming from mainly the Media. All that can result into tensions and fearful electorate, but can also tarnish credibility of the Elections.

  • We would like to remind Basotho that:
  • Elections do not mean war and killings
  • Elections do not mean conflicts
  • Elections do not mean hatred
  • Elections do not mean bearing grudge
  • Elections are not a time to remind each other one’s weaknesses

Rather,

  • Elections are a right to each and every Mosotho
  • Elections are a responsibility of every Mosotho
  • Elections offer an opportunity to elect people that will make decisions for us
  • They give us the opportunity to send those who will serve us in Parliament
  • They are a time to rethink who we would like to assign the duty of handling our
  • It is also a chance to find a solution to conflicts and instability that our country is administrative issues experiencing

Let us remember that peace is attained through peaceful means. We appeal to different sides/groupings in the following manner:

To Political leaders

Please remember that Basotho and Lesotho are a priority and they come before everything else. Do remember that Elections are not for your benefit only, but for the good of all the Basotho. Please be mindful of the fact that Lesotho has already experienced serious challenges as a result of political instabilities; and it is about time you put aside your personal aspirations for the good of the nation.

To the Basotho Nation

Please be aware that it is the right and privilege of every Mosotho to choose a leadership of one’s own choice. In that respect, we appeal that during this election time, there be a spirit of tolerance and cooperation. We remind you fellow Basotho peoples that the future of Lesotho is in your hands.

To the Security Forces

To you we would like to say, remember that you have taken an Oath of allegiance to His Majesty the King. Through this noble oath by which you swear to serve the King and to provide security to Lesotho and Basotho as a whole, you have become the subjects to the nation. We remind you of the Sesotho saying that “U ka nketsang ha e ahe motse, empa motse ho ahoa oamorapeli…” [A sword for a sword kind of attitude does not make peace, but humility and diplomacy do]. Do remember that you are not the persecutors of the nation but the servants.

We conclude by reminding you that security of Lesotho and the Basotho is in your hands.

To the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)

Your duty as the IEC is arrange for Basotho free and transparent and fair elections. This is a crucial job that is entrusted upon you, at this time when Lesotho is under disturbances and tribulations. It is the hope of Basotho that you will prepare such peaceful and acceptable elections in indeed what you are in charge of. We plead with you to proceed to do a good job in this magnanimous task.

To the Media

To you we say, in your hands you have a lethal weapon, that can put this country on fire if the weapon is not well handled. You can break or make peace, even bring about stability depending on how you use the media. We recall with concern how countries such as Rwanda experienced genocide due to inciting by the media. During this time of tension in Lesotho, we urge and request you to broadcast and publicize truth and facts only; to tell no inciting or slanderous information. Evoke your media and information ethics in your call for duty.

Our fellow Basotho who qualify as advance voters, even those who will vote on the 28th February 2015, we advise that you go to the polls with determination and in great numbers. Do observe electoral rules and regulations that govern the way you conduct yourselves while you are at the poll stations. We strongly recommend that you be prepared to accept the results once they are announced, for the sake of peace for Basotho. Those who have lost should accept that loss. Those who have won should respect such results as the will of the people, and in such a manner that all will feel are part of the nation in this country.

Be aware our dear brethren, “….that a nation without a culture is doomed to destruction and abyss…. ….”

We wish Lesotho and Basotho free, fair transparent elections that will be just and acceptable!!

 

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