Remarks by Remarks By Ambassador Rebecca E. Gonzales at the Opening of Security Sector Symposium, Maseru, Lesotho: September 2, 2019

Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister

The Honorable President of the Senate

The Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly

Her Ladyship the Acting Chief Justice

The Honorable Deputy Prime Minister

Honorable Members of his Majesty’s Cabinet, including the Minister of Defence who is present here today.

His Lordship the President of the Court of Appeal

Leaders and Senior Government Officials of the Security Sector and Civilian Counterparts

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.K. Department for International Development

Members of the Media

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honored to address this gathering today and welcome you on behalf of the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, which have collaborated on this symposium.  We are pleased to see so many leaders from across the security sector attending together, which in and of itself, is a testament to your desire to work together to advance rule of law and stability in Lesotho.  I would also like to recognize and thank the civilian representatives from agencies across the government who partner with the security sector to serve and protect the citizens of this great nation.

In my three decades of diplomatic service to my country, I have worked closely with members of America’s armed forces and many law enforcement agencies.  As a civilian, you may think it would be unfamiliar for me to be surrounded by so many men and women in uniform.  However, you would be incorrect – for two reasons – 1) I am proud to be the daughter of an officer of the U.S. Air Force and 2) I studied alongside many colleagues from the Department of Defense and other federal agencies at the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy.  The school was named for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, who retired from the U.S. Army as a 5-star general.  Now before anyone suspects that I am recommending the military enter politics – let me say that what inspires me was Eisenhower’s service to our country through periods of conflict and calm.  To this day, I remain inspired and motivated by my colleagues from that training.  My thanks to our colleagues who traveled from afar to present this training symposium here in Lesotho – which is only possible due to the hard work on both sides to re-establish military relations between our two countries.

As you embark on this course to improve civilian-military relations, it is essential for Lesotho’s senior law enforcement, military and government officials to work together.  Much has changed over the years since Lesotho gained independence and even over the past two decades.  New technologies have emerged, terrorist groups and criminal networks have brought new threats, and natural disasters such as floods, drought, and climate change continue to create new national security threats that the Government of Lesotho must address.  Doing so requires whole-of-government and whole-of-security sector approaches, making coordination and collaboration, clear institutional mandates, and information and intelligence sharing absolutely essential.  As your diplomatic partners, we know your organizations can develop the strategies, tools, and procedures to address these threats to national security and stability and provide the highest level of service to your fellow citizens.  We are here to assist and support as you work toward those goals.

As we look at these relationships between institutions and sectors within Lesotho’s current context, there are three points I would like to emphasize.  1) Lesotho must make progress on reforms and not slide backward.  2) Where challenges or weaknesses exist, institutions must acknowledge and take steps to address them.  3) Public service, whether uniformed or civilian, must live up to its ideals and oath on a continual basis.  I am confident not only that the United States, the United Kingdom, and Lesotho share these values, but that each of you here recognizes the importance of your role and your institution’s role in ensuring these values are honored in Lesotho.  Let me take each point in turn.

  • Making progress on reforms. The United States and other diplomatic partners have been consistent with the message that Lesotho must continue to pursue a comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent reforms process.  The security sector has taken this message to heart and in many ways has been an example of how this reforms process can happen at the institutional as well as national levels.  However, I must be very clear, we are not suggesting or advocating that it is the role of the security sector to lead or drive the reform process itself.  From the Lesotho Correctional Service to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, from the National Security Service to the Lesotho Defence Force, it is essential that the security sector respect rule of law and civilian leadership.  Lesotho cannot afford to go back to the days of the security sector being dragged into politics.  We cannot go back.  So I urge you to stay the course – and stay for THIS COURSE, as I am confident the knowledge shared here will be immensely useful.
  • Where issues exist, institutions must acknowledge failures or weaknesses in order to move forward. This is never easy. But if we do not acknowledge these issues, they cannot be addressed.  I have spoken out about these issues before and, as charged by my government, I will continue to do so.  As leaders, it requires courage to chart a new path, even when the need for change is recognized.  It takes courage to be bold and to inspire those we lead to share our vision. Yet I have seen many examples of this commitment and courage during my time in Lesotho, which has allowed the United States to re-engage with the LDF and to seek new avenues to collaborate with other branches of the security sector.  This symposium is a direct, tangible result of this progress and is designed to give you tools to address issues impeding your effectiveness on the ground and your unity of effort as a pillar of national stability.
  • Again, as an American diplomat, like my uniformed and civilian colleagues, I swear an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I pledge allegiance to the ideals contained in the document that binds together the people of the United States and protects their rights as citizens.   This is what is at the heart of public service.  As members of the security sector and its civilian counterparts, you are all public servants.  Undertaking these initiatives to stay the course on institutional reform and redefining unity of effort is a commitment to serving your country and your fellow Basotho.  If fully committed to and with concrete action, I am certain this work will build a stronger Lesotho for generations to come.

My father, who I mentioned earlier, was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force.  He passed away a few years ago and was buried alongside thousands of other distinguished veterans in Arlington National Cemetery.  This cemetery, which is situated in a place of honor overlooking Washington D.C., is also the final resting place of Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln.  The military honors my father received at his funeral will always be vivid in my heart and mind for I know that they were given in honor of his selfless service to his country.  It was not rank or achievements or connections that earned him this privilege, but service to his country and its citizens.  That is what makes him and other service members worthy of our nation’s respect and gratitude.

Service to country and citizens, guided by the principles of your respective institutions, is the most fundamental element that unites the security sector.  It is within your power to model this principle for other sectors and for Basotho.  In fact, it is essential.

Let me close with one of President Eisenhower’s notable quotes, in which he says, “A people that values its privileges over its principles soon loses both.”  This is why I urge you all to stay the course, to address issues with courage, and to live the ideals of service to country and your fellow citizens that form the backbone of the security sector.

With this, I wish you a successful symposium.  Kea Leboha.  Khotso, Pula, Nala.