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Mediators missing one huge step

by Lesotho Times
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THE church-driven mediation in Lesotho’s political crisis has been dragging on for months now with no solution in sight.
Bishop Philip Mokuku, who was appointed by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) to help resolve the dispute, has struggled to make an impact.
The whole mediation process has been wobbling with a veil of uncertainty surrounding the talks.
The political leadership of Lesotho on both sides of the divide has shown real contempt for the mediation process.
Three months have now passed with no breakthrough in sight.
Last month it was reported that Bishop Mokuku was now seeking the attorney general’s input in the High Court judgment on the proportional representation seats row that has been with us since the 2007 elections.
As noted by civic groups in Lesotho the government and the opposition are sharply divided on the interpretation of the Marematlou Freedom Party’s (MFP) case and the talking points delivered by Sir Ketumile Masire at the end of his mediation last August.
My immediate question is why should the church mediators focus on a controversial High Court judgment instead of persuading the political leadership to put national interests before their narrow interests?
I believe the CCL is a big institution that can rally the political leadership of this country to take and make reconciliation a national priority.
This is not new. We have seen the church apply similar strategies in times of national upheaval here in Lesotho in the past.
Any attempts to retain the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system with its current flaws will yield the same problems in any future election.
The legal route has only succeeded in yielding controversial interpretations from politicians on the MFP case.
I can sense that the government is less committed in amending the law to avoid the kind of “fraud” that we saw during the last election.
We have seen both the opposition and the government sticking to their positions heightening the level of confrontation.
In the current debate there is no space for the dissenting voice.
One is either pro-reallocation or anti-reallocation of seats.
In my opinion the current stand-off demands reconciliation of all political parties before they can venture into the merits or demerits of the MFP’s case.
The church should not have missed this initial step.
There is need for reconciliation as a pre-arrangement that would differentiate the good bishop’s team from Masire’s team.
While the necessity for dialogue might be understood by all stakeholders, attitudes and perceptions are also critical.
 There must be commitment from political parties to adhere to the memorandum of understanding signed by the belligerent parties.
However, we have seen over the past three months the country’s two main political leaders, Pakalitha Mosisili and Thomas Thabane, publicly exchange nasty comments about each other.
The two have vowed to stick to their positions which, I feel, seriously undermines the process of mediation by the church.
Sadly attempts to safeguard the MMP electoral model have now been reduced to an explanatory problem of the interpretation of the MFP case.
This route is misguided.
The interpretation of the MFP case which Bishop Mokuku has asked for cannot be the basis for national reconciliation.
I would like to appeal to the church as a community and its authority — that is the priests and bishops — to provide the necessary support to Bishop Mokuku.
The CCL, which represents the majority of churches in Lesotho, kept this nation united during times of political upheaval.
When the politics of the Basotho National Party and Basotho Congress Party divided us as a nation, the CCL kept us united.
The church has shaped our national politics as has happened elsewhere around the globe.
In Europe, for instance, in countries such as Poland the church was the only real counterforce and authority against tyranny.
In Africa and Latin America, the church led and blessed liberation movements.
Sadly the church today has given up on its political involvement to concentrate on its religious and moral roles.
As a result peace and stability for this country are at stake.
Masire failed not because he did not have the necessary skills for conflict resolution but because he failed to hold the parties by the balls when they violated the code of conduct.
This could also happen to Bishop Mokuku if he fails to push for national reconciliation ahead of any discussions on the election dispute.

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