Coalition supporters to stage protest march
. . . demonstration to demand removal of US envoy
SUPPORTERS of the seven-party coalition government are planning to stage a protest march to demand the removal of the United States Ambassador to Lesotho, Matthew Harrington, as well as to show “full solidarity” to the government.
This was confirmed by one of the organisers, the outspoken Bokang Ramatšella, in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
Mr Ramatšella, would not specify when the protest march would take place saying arrangements were still underway.
“This is not a protest march by political parties in the coalition government, but a protest march by this government’s supporters. You must not confuse the two. It’s not the government nor the parties that constitute it protesting. It’s the government’s supporters who will march,” he said.
“For that reason, the protest march would not be organised or named after any political organisation. Anyone present at the march should be seen as an ordinary supporter of the government and not be linked to any political party,” said Mr Ramatšella, who himself is the spokesman of the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), one of the parties in the seven-party coalition government.
The Democratic Congress (DC)’s youth league had earlier dissociated itself from the protest march.
“DC is not part of this protest march and will never be. There are measures to be taken when there is a belief that an ambassador of any country in Lesotho has gone astray,” reads part of the youth league’s press statement.
“We, therefore, as the DC youth pronounce that if at all, the US ambassador has erred in any way and has been seen to be working against the government, without sticking to his ambassadorial mandate, the government of Lesotho has to take responsible measures…so as to help maintain the warm relations enjoyed by these two countries.”
The DC also warned the Americans could reciprocate by also hounding out Lesotho’s envoy to the economic giant.
“What this syndicate is trying to organise can ruin relations between the two countries and also compromise Lesotho’s Embassy in America. Lesotho is represented in New York and Washington. America can do the same to our representative offices. This is why as the DCYL we are declaring that we cannot be part of such protests,” notes the statement.
“We would also like to make Basotho aware of the ever reducing number of foreign embassies in Lesotho in recent times. The British High Commission has since moved from Maseru to Pretoria, South Africa. Ireland also left in a similar fashion. This means we need to introspect and avoid becoming an island away from other countries.
“The DC is not a party that resorts to protest matches, toy-toying or stay aways. We only engage in fun walks and peace matches.”
According to Mr Ramatšella the protest march is meant to show support to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government and his cabinet.
“We want to show our full support to this government that we love and that we voted for,” he said.
“We want to show support for the government because of the way it has thus far handled SADC’s intervention issues. We want to show more support for our General Tlali Kennedy Kamoli as the only commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and to buttress the fact that we have no other commander. “But we want to also exemplify our disapproval of the behaviour of this white man called Harrington who is meddling in our country’s politics.”
Mr Ramatšella said it was still premature to specify a date for the protest march.
“It is still quite premature to say when….There are some last minute touch ups that we are working on and once they are finalized the date will be disclosed to the public. And should things go according to plan, we are going to ferry masses in support of the government from far flung places.”
Mr Ramatšella said they had decided to have the protest march to disprove claims by detractors that there was no rule of law and order in Lesotho.
“Sympathisers of the detractors of this government believe the government has lost support. We want to prove them wrong. We want to show the world that the Mosisili-led government still has followers,” he said.
“We also want to stand by our word and emphasize unwaveringly that General Kamoli is going nowhere. We are very firm on that one.”
Ambassador Harrington has been frank and firm that the United States, the only major Western power with a direct embassy in Lesotho and one of the Kingdom’s largest benefactors, wants to see all SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendations implemented, including the recommendation that Lieutenant-General Kamoli be relieved off his duties as commander of the LDF.
For this and other statements demanding the respect of the rule of law in Lesotho, Mr Harrington has been subjected to some of the most uncouth vitriol by Mr Ramatšella.
Also not spared by Mr Ramatšella is the owner of this newspaper, Basil Peta, who has been wrongly accused of conniving with Mr Harrington to destabilise the government.
Lesotho’s textiles sector is heavily reliant on the United States through the American Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which allows duty free access to the American market for a group of eligible countries.
Fears abound that if America’s hand is forced by either failure to implement the SADC recommendations or such other things as Mr Ramatšella’s unrestrained rhetoric, then the country could face devastating consequences.