Tsekoa begged US for support

MASERU — Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa in 2007 appealed to the United States embassy to “whisper into the ears of those (in the opposition) who would want to disrupt Lesotho’s democracy”.

According to a secret cable filed by US’ Charge d’Affaires W Patrick Murphy on July 9, 2007 which was revealed by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks two weeks ago, Tsekoa begged the US embassy to stop supporting the opposition and back the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

“Tsekoa reiterated that the international community should desist from taking a neutral stance towards the political impasse between the Government of Lesotho (GOL) and the political opposition,” Murphy said following a meeting with Tsekoa on July 6, 2007.

“Tsekoa called on diplomats to “whisper into the ears” of “those (in the opposition) who would want to disrupt Lesotho’s democracy.”

The meeting was attended by former Irish Ambassador Paddy Fay, acting dean of the diplomatic corps as well as then resident UN representative, Haji-Mohammed.

Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Motloheloa Phooko, also attended the meeting.

The meeting came at the height of disturbances between the government of Lesotho and the opposition following a disputed election in 2007.

The period saw government ministers being attacked with soldiers and the police violently clamping down on the opposition and members of the public to restore order.

“Tsekoa once again stated his dismay that foreign diplomats in Lesotho could consider themselves neutral in the face of the opposition which “attempted to remove this government by coup”.

“He also observed disapprovingly the dialogue which several foreign missions maintained with the political opposition stating that such contact should be aimed at the government that was elected freely and fairly,” Murphy wrote.

“Tsekoa added it was the duty of diplomatic representatives to dissuade those who “want to go down the path of destruction”.

In response to Tsekoa, Murphy says Irish Ambassador Fay said that resident diplomats were committed to working with the GOL “and to achieving peace in Lesotho”.

“He reiterated previous reviews, however, that the international community would remain neutral vis-à-vis the impasse between the governing LCD and other political parties as well as on other partisan issues,” wrote Murphy.

Murphy says Phooko commented on the security situation in the country.

Phooko made special reference to the July 5 opposition demonstration as being “well controlled by both sides” the police and opposition.

“Charge opined that the fact the march and protest took place peacefully, helped strengthen Lesotho’s democracy and was at least a partial result of the diplomatic community’s dialogue with the GOL and with the opposition to head off a confrontation,” Murphy wrote in the cable.

Tsekoa and Phooko agreed, the cable says.

However, that was not the case with Metsing, who Murphy says belittled Lesotho’s opposition in response to a suggestion that the GOL should not dismiss “public complaints of human rights abuses”.

“In contrast to Minister Tsekoa’s measured and conciliatory tone, Minister Metsing maintained a hard-line, painting Lesotho’s opposition as implacable, deceptive and violent,” Murphy adds.

Murphy wrote that while the diplomatic community would continue to “whisper suggestions” for peaceful dialogue into opposition ears “the GOL should also listen and ensure that public complaints of human rights abuses are not dismissed but rather taken seriously and addressed”.

However, the cable adds, Metsing was insistent that Lesotho’s opposition was consciously spreading disinformation about the GOL and was “aiding and abetting coup plotters”.

After citing the behaviour of the opposition groups, Metsing dismissed opposition grievances, asking the rhetorical question: “What kind of opposition do we have in this country?”

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