THE handover of the report on the New Zealand trip to the government of Lesotho by the Commonwealth special envoy Rugen Prasad MP formalises what could be termed a political ovulation period in the country.
The United Nations Resolution A/56/349, which led to the declaration on the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2000-2010) which passed unrecognised in Lesotho immediately comes to mind.
The lingering question is whether Basotho can take this to be their second chance to mend bridges and do what they ought to have done a decade and half ago.
Much to the irritation of many, I have refused to dismiss the New Zealand trip as a nullity because it is an avenue for a constructive engagement for the creation of a peaceful Lesotho.
Unless Basotho ensure the interest of the Commonwealth to help Lesotho becomes a base for political transformation and creation of a culture of peace, the processes will remain reformist, short sighted and susceptible to recurrent political dynamics.
Following the 1998 political turmoil, one of the major peace intitiatives was the abandoning of the First-Past-the-Post electoral model and adopting the Mixed Member Proportional electoral model. Though the 2002 elections, the first delivered under the MMP, included nine more political parties to the virtually one party parliament, they marked the first ever tranquil post-election period and allowed the country to make significant progress.
Basotho should, through organised formations such civil society organisations, labour, the private sector, church, academia, media, youth and political parties, guide the post New Zealand process into comprehensive peace architecture.
The United Nations defines the culture of peace as “a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations”.
Clarifying the legal framework for coalition governments, legislating transitional arrangements after elections, dealing with appointments for statutory positions, constitutional amendments to accommodate the MMP dispensation, and all other issues to be addressed, should aim at a political development process that speaks to the culture of peace.
Unless coached, some leaders in particular politicians use their power and positions to entrench structural violence.
By definition, structural violence refers to the maintenance of dominance of one group at the centre of power over another at the periphery within structures set to maintain that kind of skewed balance and asymmetrical power relationship.
Those who lead, either in government or political parties, normally fall prey to the culture of violence by maintaining and using the social, cultural, economic and political norms and institutions denying members freedom of expression and participation in their own party or government. It is therefore imperative that Basotho do not give politicians a blank cheque in the post New Zealand dialogue.
If given the chance, politicians will either consciously or otherwise make laws that insulate them from public control. The culture of peace represents a paradigm shift from what mainstream politics reflects.
While some leaders believe in retaining power using force, the peace advocates call for dialogue as a means to resolve conflicts.
The enmity, authoritarianism, exploitation, secrecy and propaganda that characterise the mainstream political landscape are challenged by tolerance, solidarity, understanding, equality between male and females, democratic participation and the free flow of information.
Unless people beyond their party affiliations seize the moment and demand changes that lead to the creation of a peacefull environment, politicians whether within government or without, may not go beyond what they believe in.
Though peace advocates have successfully introduced the culture of peace in the national development policy framework, little has been achieved by politicians and technocrats and officials who are yet to graduate from the culture of violence.
The Vision 2020 which aspires that Lesotho shall, by this year, be at peace with itself and its neighbours, provides for the creation of conflict resolution mechanisms at all levels of society, promotion of popular participation in national affairs and promotion of national unity.
Although the Vision provides for the establishment of supporting institutions namely a Parliamentary Working Committee on Planning, Think Tank on Public Policy, Research & Analysis and National Planning Board in the third quarter of 2004, none of these have been established to date.
The Lesotho country self-assessment report under the African Peer Review Mechanism did not only define intrastate conflict in terms of election related disputes, institutional confrontation including between the army and government, socio-economic inequality but also recommended that the country should develop a comprehensive national peace architecture, capacitate political parties to manage conflicts and strengthen the culture of dialogue.
Why is it that these policy objectives have not been implemented? Assuming that it has been a weakness of the politicians in power and the officials, has this non delivery on peace goals been an issue to the politicians in opposition? The National Development Strategic Plan commits government to the development of peace architecture which includes conflict management through institutions and systems and public participation.
Now that government and politicians would be ready to engage in real governance issues as a result of New Zealand, can Basotho seize the moment and plant a seed of culture of peace in their politics?
The sustainable outcome of the current political debate should be a creation of peace architecture.
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