Wales and Lesotho

Wales and Lesotho – a unique partnership

Kenneth Noble

The path of aid does not always run smooth, as Welsh school children have discovered. A consignment of books worth [pounds sterling] 120,000 from Welsh primary school children was a casualty of the political unrest in the southern African Kingdom of Lesotho in September 1998.

The books had been collected as part of a three-year scheme being organized by Dolen Cymru (Wales Link), the promoters of a unique inter-country twinning between Wales and Lesotho that started in the mid-Eighties (see FAC Feb/March 1995 and Aug/Sept 1997). Welsh school children are being asked to donate reading books they no longer need as part of the project, funded by the National Lottery, to help raise literacy levels in Lesotho.

The first container-load of books, from Anglesey, was safely distributed to schools in the Mafeteng district. But the second consignment, in 400 boxes, was destroyed when a Ministry of Education warehouse in Maseru was burned to the ground. The unrest had started after the May elections but tension increased when South African and Botswanan soldiers entered the capital to try and restore order.

Dolen Cymru told Clare Short, UK Secretary of State for International Development, of the loss, and her department’s Pretoria-based Programme Manager for Lesotho later purchased replacements.

Undeterred by all this, children from many parts of Wales collected three more container-loads of books during 1999 (some of which had to be replaced after being infested by rats). Some books were distributed in remote mountain areas of Lesotho where books of any kind are a rarity.

Dolen Cymru was the brainchild of a doctor, Carl Clowes. He suggested finding a developing country the same size as Wales with which Wales could identify, and where a relationship could be established. Lesotho was chosen after wide public consultation.

Since the Link was formally established there have been many exchanges and myriad initiatives in such areas as health, religion, agriculture, women’s organizations and education.

For instance, in the latest of a series of exchanges between young people from the churches in Wales and their counterparts in Lesotho, an ecumenical group of nine from Wales spent two weeks in Lesotho last July. They had been selected from six denominations. Paul Christmas, the Catholic representative, said, `One of the most valuable experiences for me was that of ecumenism, both from my Welsh and Basotho friends.’

In 1999 Queen Mother `Mamohato of Lesotho visited Wales with her second son, Principal Chief Seeiso Seeiso, and four others. They attended the twinning of St Davids and the Queen’s home village of Matsieng.

The royal party also took the opportunity to visit the grave of Prince Jeremiah Labopena Moshoeshoe in Welshampton, Shropshire. The prince, a son of Moshoeshoe I who founded the Kingdom of Lesotho, died there in 1863 after walking in the rain and developing pneumonia.

The evidence suggests that both Wales and Lesotho derive benefit from the link. How long will it be before more countries take up the idea?

COPYRIGHT 2000 For A Change

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group