OP-EDs

OP-ED: THE ASCENDANCY OF GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY

By: Theko Tlebere

Remember I have said this before that my alacrity about this column is to edify young people about matters that affect them directly or indirectly on their day to day lives? I must say the Government of National Unity (GNU) debate has taken a toll that I didn’t think it would, hence today I would like to focus on the reasoning behind GNUs.

Research shows that there has been more than a hundred GNUs since 1975 way up to 2012, even though such GNUs have varied astrology to their demise, for the purpose of this series I felt we need to understand the core values of why GNUs were formed in the first place. That way we shall be able to realize the reality into the formation of GNUs and even further be able to assess the goods that come with GNU formations then next week we can look at the bad that comes with GNUs.

First let’s inaugurate our chapter for this week by prompting you as we had strappingly done last week on elucidating what GNUs are; according to Dylan Blake et al (2015) Governments of national unity (GNUs) are negotiated, formalized power-sharing agreements among opposing parties or elites. They include provisions for power-sharing in political, economic, territorial, and military affairs.

GNUs are a subset of coalition governments that form specifically to end or forestall violence. They are considered temporary or transitional, made in preparation for elections, the ratification of a new constitution or amendments, or the design and implementation of new governance institutions.

The most pressing issue here about GNUs is that they don’t just fall off from the sky (Ha se seoa holimo), they mostly happen because of regional and international interventions. But even if that is the case you need to comprehensively accord to the fact that a lot of thinking and debating was done before any GNU could come into place.

Research indicates that GNUs have a unique ability to unify past aggressors in a common vision for the future, and to usher in a new era of peace and stability. Again it stipulates that some GNUs emerge as a result of a preceding conflict that was ideologically motivated.

Talking about ideology, the word according to Webster dictionary most often refers to “a systematic body of concepts,” especially those of a particular group or political party. And now we need to take a breather and think of our thirty plus political parties in Lesotho and what ideologies do they have that differ and can lead us or regional bodies like Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union(AU) into opting for GNU?

Research further indicates that GNUs are created to end an existing conflict or forestall an imminent conflict. Researchers agree that certain characteristics of the conflict that precedes establishment of a GNU help predict the stability of post-conflict peace. They further imply that GNU formation was more likely to dissolve peacefully opposing groups or elite actors within a country by creating a GNU through codifying power-sharing provisions in a settlement that ends or forestall violence.

Well, having said that, I should not leave without admitting that there seems to be very little conclusive or quantitative research that exists to support or refute the contention that GNUs can promote stability for conflict-affected countries, though it’s highly depended on each countries’ dynamics.

David Hinds (2011) ascertains that one in many benefits of Governments of National Unity is its potential for the enhancement of democratization within the government.

One of the common problems he identified is that of governance in most states, but specifically the Caribbean which is where his study focused, that despite the general adherence to the tenets of formal democracy there is a concomitant monopoly of power by the ruling parties and the exclusion of the opposition.

This democratic exclusion has led to virtual a one party democracy, which has had negative consequences for the rule of law, respect for civil liberties, government accountability, economic and development, political instability and national sovereignty.

Another benefit of GNU is that it brings the opposition off the streets into the formal councils of government thus denying the government the excuse that it is under siege and the opposition of charges that its supporters are depicted ethnically and or otherwise marginalized.

With both groups in the executive branch, majoritarianism gives way to a more consensus form of democracy. Majoritarianism according to a simple dictionary meaning is the rule by a majority, especially the belief that those constituting a simple majority should make the rules for all members of a group, nation.

The million-dollar question in our case would be; who holds the majority? Can we really say the four parties ruling now, hold the majority of electorates of Lesotho? What about the parties in the opposition! Don’t some of them hold more votes than parties in government?

I may this far sound like someone who is pro- GNU, and I will accept the notion for now, but next week we shall closely look at some of the disadvantages of GNUs, why it didn’t work in some countries, and probably touch up why it wouldn’t work for us in Lesotho, looking at a few cases where it never really yielded the anticipated outcomes. The future is now!!!! NW

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