The 21st and 22nd September are important days which compel Basotho to ask, respond to and talk about peace in one way or another. May I add content, flavour, colour and relevance to that dialogue!
On the 22nd September 1998, South African National Defense Force aggressively entered Lesotho, broke gate at the Royal Palace and flew South African flag, massacred Lesotho Defense Force members at Katse Dam and attacked Makoanyane Barracks in the operation BOLEAS. This was by the invitation of political authority in Lesotho. South Africa was later joined by the Botswana Defence Force, which entered with the white flag and predominantly exhibited presence in the streets amidst looting and arson. Subsequently this was said to be the SADC operation. In 1987, His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II had warned and called Basotho that “…let there be no more time when foreign troops would come and attack Basotho by the invitation of a Mosotho…” Hardly, ten years later it happened. Though a big issue, Basotho have decided not to dialogue about it. Their take has remained biased, naïve, limited and monologue though done in public. The cost of Operation BOLEAS is devastating, somethings are known to the public others are not.
Assuming that Basotho want to endorse the words of the King Moshoeshoe II, and want to avoid falling in the similar pit again, what kind of questions should they ask? What dialogue would they need to engage in? What opportunity is being presented by the reforms that they can snatch? Why was the invitation necessary, did it achieve that which it was meant for, why did things go to the point where invitation was seen as the option and the only one for that matter? Have Basotho acknowledged their contribution to the cost or has it always been this against that side? Are Basotho in a position to claim with certainty that it would not happen again?
The 21st September 2021 has since 1981 been marked globally as the day of peace. Civil society organisations have not been uninvolved. Development for Peace Education has in the recent years, tried to involve Basotho in this important global activism. However, there has been a pattern of lack of interest of government. What could be the reason?
On the 21st September 2021 DPE marked the day by two important activities. One, was a morning activity where peace education training for teachers was launched, the reading of the message of UN Secretary General by the UN Resident Coordinator(a.i) and the domestication of the message by civil society, students, NRA, Moshoeshoe institute for peace and leadership, teacher formations and teachers participating in the yearlong peace education training. The second one was the planting of fruit trees at Mokoallong High School, marking the beginning of the planting of the trees of peace in schools.
The government has been invited at the morning event, the Prime Minister and the Ministers. Not even a decline message! Ministers were invited for the second activities, they did not come, not even a message of decline was received. The Ministry of Forestry, participated in the second activity and its message was well received by the teachers. This is highly commendable.
Why has government not attended the citizens’ initiative to mark International Peace Day? Could it be because government does not see peace as priority? Is it ordinary and normal for the government to pretend it has not heard that citizens are talking about International Day of Peace? Is this demonstration of how government values peace both globally and locally? The NRA is working on the peace architecture as demanded by the Basotho. Political leadership is interested in how Basotho should perceive transitional justice, but is the leadership really interested in peace? Basotho at all levels are experiencing untold consequences of the culture of violence growing in this society. People are being butchered; women, children and men alike. The growing attacks on the police are a reason for concern. Would citizens’ initiative about peace not be a platform that government concerned about growing violence would not miss?
The 21st September makes Basotho part of the global reflection on the diminishing harmony, which UN Secretary General rightly calls the diminishing humanity. However, the 22nd has a history that presents a need for constant reflection on what went wrong, what pain did Basotho go through, are Basotho not better off working hard to never go back there. Put differently Basotho have reasons to have two days to mark peace discourse, but should government not be in the forefront? Should government not support peace initiatives by the citizens? It was governments who decided that the 21st September should be international day of peace. How can the Lesotho government account for its commitment if it does not even acknowledge citizens efforts to mark the international day?
At DPE dialogue is defined as a genuine persuasive exchange and engagement for common understanding.
May I invite dialogue on peace made more relevant and clearer to our context by the significance of two days 21st and the 22nd September!!