MASERU — Archbishop Desmond Tutu says Lesotho’s politicians should not value their ambition more than national peace. Archbishop Tutu was speaking during a prayer session to appeal for political tolerance during the May 26 general election. The session held at Manthabiseng Convention Centre was organised by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lesotho. On April 19, 10 people were injured in a violent clash between Democratic Congress (DC) and opposition supporters at a DC rally in Thetsane.
Two weeks earlier the DC leader Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had been heckled by opposition supporters as he addressed a rally in Maputsoe.
It is this trend that compelled the CCL to invite Archbishop Tutu to Lesotho. The Nobel Peace Prize winner said he had come to Lesotho because he does not want the country to degenerate into chaos.
He said politicians should refrain from using campaign tactics that instigate violence. Violence can only lead to bloodshed, he said. “Your political rivalry should not destroy your country. I have come here instead of celebrating with my family (Freedom Day in South Africa) because I do not want to see with your country what I saw in South Africa,” Tutu said of the apartheid era in the neighbouring country. “One funeral was a cause for another funeral. Don’t let that happen with this land. Nothing can be so precious that it ought to be gained by other people’s lives,” he said.
Archbishop Tutu was once the head of the Anglican Church in Lesotho. He said over the years he has observed that Basotho no longer behave as they did when he was still based here.
“The Basotho people would welcome you with a big smile and happy greeting. Not much of that is happening anymore. What happened to that peace? Basotho were a fantastic nation. “Your founder King Moshoeshoe was a man of peace. How come now that a brother is shedding another’s blood,” he said.
Basotho, he said, had no excuse to fight among themselves because they “are one people who speak the same language” Tutu urged political leaders not to follow the trend of fellow African leaders who cling on to power. He said one would be lucky to count up to five African political leaders who have stepped down voluntarily to leave power to younger generations.
“Look how (Muammar) Gadaffi died after staying in power for 40 years. Look how Mubarak (foreign Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak) Hosni is bound to a stretcher when he goes for his court appearances.” Power-hungry leaders tend to mistreat their people, Tutu observed. “They tend to think that people are stupid.” The prayer session ended with political leaders taking a pledge to accept the outcome of the election if they are fair by the independent observers.
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