TOMORROW Lesotho marks 44 years of independence from British control.
Elsewhere the day would have been commemorated with galas including sporting activities such as football matches.
Politicians like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe would not miss such an opportunity to preach jingoism and attack Western countries who “think we blacks can’t rule ourselves”.
The national day doesn’t seem so important in Lesotho.
Tomorrow His Majesty King Letsie III and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, in a low-key commemoration, are expected to lead a clean-up exercise in Maseru.
I’m relieved we won’t be subjected to needless propaganda reminding us of what it means to be independent.
Yet I feel duty-bound to touch on what it really means to be independent.
Independence means much more than being able to vote for leaders of our choice.
Real independence means being able to make leaders of our choice accountable.
It’s the power to decide our destiny.
For now, it’s a bit embarrassing for Lesotho to be celebrating “independence” when the majority of the people are not in control of their stomachs and health.
Hunger continues to stalk the majority of this country’s 1.8 million people.
Nearly a quarter of Lesotho’s adult population is infected with HIV — and that’s the world’s third highest rate.
The joblessness level in this country is quite depressing.
The lucky few who are employed do not earn enough to see them through the month.
Now what’s there to celebrate when the people are at the mercy of such alarming poverty?
Just last week Mosisili presented a quite revealing report on Lesotho’s Millennium Development Goals progress.
He told a United Nations summit in New York that Lesotho’s efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger were off-track.
So too were attempts to achieve universal primary education and to reduce the child mortality rate.
Looking at such a grim picture, it’s rather discomforting to claim that Basotho are independent.
Real independence must mean much more than being able to fly our own flag and sing our own national anthem.
Without economic independence (read full stomachs) as well as judiciary independence, political freedom means little.
We are still a donor-driven economy.
And we largely live off South Africa in terms of food and jobs.
The independence that this country’s long-suffering people deserve must be rooted in socio-economic development highlighted by a good standard of living for the people, proper education and accessible healthcare.
With that, Basotho can then rightly pride themselves as an independent people.
So as the powers-that-be pick litter or sweep the streets of Maseru, they must take time to reflect on the challenges on their shoulders to make this country really independent.