Lesotho’s election is more than a contested vote in a remote country rarely heard from. It comes on the heels of successful elections across the continent: Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, and Zambia have recently all experienced peaceful elections. There have been a few notable blemishes: a couple of coups des états in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, and a contested election in Cote D'Ivoire in late 2010 that briefly turned into a civil war.
The “democracy dividend” of those peaceful elections, the Brookings Institution recently observed, has seen triumphant African states “rewarded by the international community and the private sector through increased investments in durable infrastructure that directly contribute to faster growth.”
US Ambassador to Lesotho, Michele Thoren Bond, adds, “A hard-fought, transparent, credible election here in Lesotho reinforces the fact that this is becoming the norm, rather than the exception, in Africa.”
In the mono-ethnic, mono-lingual country of Lesotho – almost entirely comprised of the Sesotho-speaking Basotho tribe – there’s less a focus on the carrot-and-stick diplomacy of outsiders than an emphasis on nurturing home-grown mediation between the feuding factions. It’s led by a coalition of churches and cultivated by the UN, which has invested heavily in technical assistance.
External interventions routinely foster resentment with locals and prove unsustainable, said UN Resident Coordinator in Lesotho Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie.
“The Basotho are a very proud nation and believe in their ability to solve their own problems,” Eziakonwa-Onochie said after Tutu’s speech. “But if there was anyone from the outside who could come and be acceptable to all parties, it was Bishop Tutu, who loves Lesotho like a second home.”