Bury your vendettas

Bury your vendettas

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane last Friday made an impassioned plea to Lesotho’s political leaders to bury the hatchet and ensure the SADC-driven reforms succeed at all costs. At the heart of the reforms would be the need to secure the participation of the opposition which has been adamant that it will not be part of the process unless certain demands are met.

The opposition wants Thabane to guarantee that two key exiled leaders, Mothetjoa Metsing and Tseliso Mokhosi, return home safely and are not harmed.

They also want former Lesotho army commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, who has been in detention for the past 10 months, released.
On the surface, such demands, particularly the latter, might appear to be a deal-breaker.
Kamoli, who has been described by the United States as a deeply polarising figure, stands accused of serious charges ranging from attempted murder to treason.

Fourteen months after Thabane was swept into power, the reform process has hardly moved an inch, bogged down by squabbles between the coalition government and the opposition. But now it appears Thabane is determined to get the ball rolling. Last week, he met former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in a bid to find common ground.

Yet, if the reform process is to move forward, the Thabane-led coalition government must be prepared to take hard decisions.
We believe the creation of a safe corridor to allow Metsing and Mokhosi to return home is not an impossible request. Given the fact that the stakes are high, the government must be prepared to bend backwards to accommodate some of the opposition’s demands.
Even the release of Lt Gen Kamoli, outrageous as it might sound, could be a small price Lesotho should be prepared to pay to secure lasting peace for its people.

There will be a lot of hard bargaining on both sides. The government and the opposition must be prepared to compromise to get the reforms going.
Thabane must also remember that there will be hawks within his own camp, driven by the need for self-preservation. Such hawks will be viscerally opposed to any compromises.

Thabane must be prepared to ditch such hawks for the sake of progress. Ultimately, Thabane must remember that the reform process is intricately linked with his own legacy. He could be remembered as the man who, despite all odds, helped stabilise Lesotho and put the country on a trajectory of peace and development.

Thabane could be remembered as a hero if he is to steer the country towards successful reforms. By undertaking successful reforms, Thabane could help Lesotho break with its violent past marked by coups and political instability. Any compromises, as demanded by the opposition, will therefore be a small price to pay.

Lesotho will not be the first country to go through a turbulent period and then go for comprehensive political reforms to secure peace.
Other nations such as Rwanda and South Africa, following violent conflict, have gone through a similar process. From such experiences, we learn a simple truth: that the worst of enemies can sit down on the same table and chart the path of peace.

This is not about ultimate victories. It is about compromising for the sake of posterity. Lesotho needs a visionary political leadership that will put the interests of the nation above those of self. It’s time we bury our petty vendettas.

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