Lesotho must join the party

THIS week the Libyan embassy in Maseru flew two flags, one associated with ousted strongman Muammar Gadaffi, and the other associated with the National Transitional Council (NTC) representing the new political dispensation in the North African state.

The development vividly captures the ambivalence brought about by the dramatic events that we have witnessed in Libya since the beginning of August.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa says Lesotho will not take a position on the impasse until calm returns to the North African country.

But this “wait-and-see” attitude could hurt Lesotho’s interests in the long run.

While we prevaricate the rest of the world is moving on.

We think it is in Lesotho’s interest to immediately throw its weight behind the “people’s revolution” in Libya.

In addition, Lesotho’s loyalty should not be to an individual but to the long-suffering people of Libya.

We acknowledge Gadaffi’s immense sacrifices in the decolonisation of southern Africa.

He was one man who supported liberation movements to the hilt by providing not just moral but material support as well.

We cannot forget those sacrifices.

But it would be dereliction of duty on our part if we were to fail to point out Gadaffi’s glaring failures.

Highlighting these should not be seen as an act of betrayal.

We understand that it is precisely for this reason that governments in southern Africa have not found it easy to ditch Gadaffi and recognise his nemesis, the NTC.

Botswana probably stands out as the only southern African state that has recognised the new rebel-led administration in Tripoli.

But African governments must realise that Gadaffi, in spite of his immense contributions to the decolonisation agenda, was no saint.

His regime stands accused of perpetrating gross human rights violations against the Libyan people.

Secondly, Gadaffi was no democrat. He was an unelected leader who assumed power through the barrel of the gun.

And for almost 42 years he held onto power through savage means.

So when the rebels chased him away from Tripoli last month, screaming and screeching, we felt no inkling of sympathy towards him and his regime.

To stand up and declare that Gadaffi abused his own people should therefore not be seen as an act of betrayal.

We are merely acknowledging that Gadaffi made mistakes during his reign and that he overstayed in power.

Lesotho must therefore not prevaricate.

Instead, it must throw its weight behind the heroic people of Libya and congratulate them for casting away the chains that shackled them for over four decades.

Lesotho owes no one an apology if it takes this stance.

Sitting on the fence will not enhance Lesotho’s reputation as a fierce defender of democratic ideals.

We believe the people of Libya are demanding basic human rights. They want an end to an unelected dictatorship. They want democratic reforms. They want an end to repression.

We believe these are universal rights that the people of Libya are also entitled to enjoy.

We had great hopes that the African Union (AU) would behave differently to its clownish predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity.

Our hopes were misplaced.

The AU has continued to harp on that discredited doctrine of non-interference, reducing the continental body to a toothless bulldog.

But we are not surprised by the AU’s response. That continental body has proven largely ineffectual over the years.

In fact, it has proven to be extremely cozy with dictators.

Gadaffi was one of them.

South Africa has also refused to recognise the NTC. But for us a failure to recognise the NTC would be an endorsement of repression and a wish to return to the dark days under Gadaffi.

We believe the Libyan people have moved on.

It is therefore in Lesotho’s interests to join the party by publicly backing the NTC.

The country must take a firm stance in favour of ongoing efforts to democratise Libya.

The people of Libya need our undivided support.

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