Lesotho slams AU decision to grant Israel observer status

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

LESOTHO has joined South Africa and Botswana in condemning the African Union (AU) Commission’s decision to grant Israel observer status at the African bloc.

Israel obtained AU observer status two weeks ago after 20 years of diplomatic efforts. It had previously held the role at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) but was long thwarted in its attempts to regain it after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.

According to the Israeli foreign ministry, the new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent.

But in its confidential 30 July 2021 letter to the AU chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Lesotho’s embassy to Ethiopia and the AU “registers its objection to the decision to grant Israel observer status and requests that that the matter be rescinded forthwith”.

The embassy said that previous attempts by Israel to obtain observer status were rejected due to the fact that Israel had occupied Palestinian territories.

It accused Mr Mahamat of acting unilaterally without consulting member states before making the decision.

“The Kingdom of Lesotho rightfully expected that the chairperson of the African Union Commission would have informed the member states of the African Union about the resubmission of the Israeli request for accreditation,” the embassy states in its letter.

“This issue is sensitive and consultation with member states should have been undertaken before a decision was made.

“The Kingdom of Lesotho notes that there are both political and legal considerations which in previous attempts by Israel to be accorded this status let to rejection by the Union. Foremost has been the conduct of Israel on the rights of the Palestinian people which are not in line with both with both international law and the values enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

“Lesotho recalls that the Union has consistently reiterated its support for the Palestinian people in securing an independent and sovereign status with East Jerusalem as its capital. Lesotho has on several occasions called upon Israel to respect its international law obligations on the Palestinian issue and asserted the right of the people of Palestine to full statehood in line with several United Nations resolutions.

“The Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho therefore requests the Chairperson to rescind this decision in line with the advice of the Legal Counsel in both 2013 and 2015/16 on the same issue. Lesotho further notes that here are no new facts now which would make the decisions made earlier to be reviewed,” the embassy further states.

Deputy Foreign and International Relations Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, yesterday backed the Lesotho embassy’s stance, saying the current government could not support any decision that favoured aggressor countries like Israel.

“We saw a very disturbing trend during former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s regime when the government deviated from its original position of standing against occupying states. The (Moeketsi) Majoro administration has changed this trend and has gone back to Lesotho’s original policy of supporting states like Palestine.

“It is clear that Israel is an occupying power which has demolished Palestine in all possible ways. It would therefore defy logic if we were to support them in the AU.

“If we were to agree to that, I am sure Lesotho would be the only SADC country to stand by the decision to grant Israel observer status. We can’t do that. Most African countries are against this decision except for some sell-outs,” Mr Mofomobe said.

South Africa and Botswana have also issued statements condemning the decision.

South Africa said it was “appalled” by the move while Botswana said it the decision was unilaterally made without any consultation.

 

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