Sunday started with the celebration of the 8 am Mass in English at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Victory (Maseru). It was our opportunity to thank God for the peaceful elections and to thank the people of Lesotho for welcoming us.
The IMBISA team then sat down with the Justice & Peace (JPCC) team to share on our observation yesterday.
In fact, yesterday we had a full day. We started in different places around Maseru just before 7 am to observe the opening of the voting process. The first thing we noted was the relaxing mood in the people. We had read (more than heard) that there was "tension in Lesotho" but we never came across any. There was no tension before or during the elections.
The JPCC shared with us that even after the final rallies, people mixed in the different buses to go back home confirming once again our surprise at those who spoke about "tension".
Visiting different polling stations both around Maseru and in rural areas (we travelled 110 km outside Maseru yesterday) we found people queuing from early in the morning ready to vote as soon as the polling station would open, delegates from the different political parties witnessing the arrival of each voter, the calling of their names double checking it was part of the voters' roll. A local chief was also present to confirm the identity of a person if there would problems with his / her document. All well organised.
In every place we were welcomed and provided with any information we would require. They would write down who we were, where we were coming from and explain that to everyone in the room.
Nowhere did we see any political party campaigning or putting pressure on the people. Today I realised that all the adverts in the streets had been removed. Big ones in the area of the Cathedral were no longer there. That is quite a difference from other countries were these remain "forever and ever"...
Outside Maseru the weather did not really help. We had heavy rains and wind for some time. This might have affected people who had to walk long distances to their polling station.
Just before 5 pm we stopped at a polling station to witness the counting of votes. It was interesting to see that they came across just a few spoiled ballots, a sign that people are used to voting and clearly knew what they were supposed to do.
We had a long day but we were very happy at the celebration of well organised peaceful elections.
Now we are waiting for the final results. Quoting the message issued by the "Lesotho Bishops' Confererence" before the elections:
"To political leaders. Please remember that Basotho and Lesotho are a priority and they come before everything else. Do remember that Elections are not for your benefit only, but for the good of all the Basotho. Please be mindful of the fact that Lesotho has already experienced serious challenges as a result of political instabilities; and it is about time you put aside your personal aspirations for the good of the nation."
Click HERE for a link to the photo album