Monday

Invasion of Lesotho (Khapo ea Lesotho)

I would recommend my readers to first go through Mr Jonathan Edelstein's article, because the present post was completely inspired by that article.

My initial purpose was only to report that SADC did, indeed, intervene in Lesotho in August 1998, because that fact does not appear in the above-mentioned article. I decided to elaborate when I saw (and remembered) the extent to which that intervention was labeled an invasion.

Words are strong, although that can depend on who is saying them, when they are being said or who is hearing them. In 1970 Leabua Jonathan, the then incumbent Prime-Minister of Lesotho, lost the election, suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergency, and threw anybody who said anything in jail. During the ensuing years of repression many boys, including my own brother, left the country to go and get military training. When these same boys started hitting installations, they were promptly called Likhukhuni by Radio Lesotho and all government statements. Sekhukhuni implies one who sneaks about in the dark, and is the equivalent of terrorist. And it was the ageless terrorist/freedom-fighter tug-of-war one more time.

One of the many reports about the intervention of SADC forces in Lesotho says that

The government of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was elected on May 23 after winning in 79 out of the 80 voting districts. But the voting arrangements were entirely under the control of the military and were obviously rigged. In August a recount of voting which had been demanded in 32 of the constituencies revealed a pattern of "ghost voting". About 2,000 ballot papers in each district had no authenticating mark of the voting officer at the polling booth. A previous investigation of a sample of six districts revealed irregularities with the dates of birth of voters, with eight times as many voters allegedly born on January 1 than on any other day of the year.


"But the voting arrangements were entirely under the control of the military and were obviously rigged."
As far as I know, the military has never been on the side of the LCD. It had always aligned itself with the BNP, Leabua Jonathan's Basotho National Party that had ruled Lesotho since independence in 1966. In fact, the whole mess was caused by the military trying to overthrow the LCD! The person who wrote that article obviously imagines that the army must always be on the side of the ruling party. If the military had rigged the ballots, it would have been to the disadvantage of the LCD.

I went to Lesotho in May 2000. Maseru was a ghost town. I had read about it and heard stories from friends and family. But it was creepy all the same. They had burned a whole town down in order to protest the outcome of an election that had been internationally supervised!

I went to Qoaling, my village on the outskirts of Maseru, and to the home where my family had been attacked in the middle of the night by Jonathan's men. I talked to people, friends, family friends. Nobody seemed to be against the presence of South-African and Botswana troops in Lesotho. In fact, most of them felt protected. They called the SADC pick-up trucks The Rusty Ones (Tse Mafome), due to their camouflage colour.

So, once again, one person's invasion has become another one's saving. I have already introduced the present government of Lesotho to you. It is an elected government. And so far it seems to be up in arms against the things that plague Basotho the most. But, if you haven't already done so, yell if you're unhappy about anything and don't let any of these people that you yourself elected sleep on the job. No, no, no. There is much too much to do.