NEWLY-APPOINTED French Ambassador to Lesotho and South Africa, Christophe Farnaud, presented his credentials to King Letsie III on Friday last week to confirm his appointment.
Based in Pretoria, South Africa, Ambassador Farnaud succeeded Ambassador Elisabeth Barbier, as the European nation’s envoy to South Africa in January this year and eventually Lesotho.
After presenting his credentials to His Majesty, Ambassador Farnaud briefly held separate consultative meetings with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana, who was also acting Foreign Affairs minister.
The ambassador also visited the Alliance Française de Maseru; a French cultural centre established in 1981 to promoting French language and Francophone cultures.
Mr Farnaud also visited the Basotho cultural and heritage sites, Morija among others, before leaving the country last Saturday.
Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, caught up with Mr Farnaud for a brief interview in between his busy schedule. Below are excerpts from the interview.
LT: How was the experience of presenting your credentials to King Letsie III?
Farnaud: I had the privilege of presenting my letters of credence to His Majesty King Letsie III. After the ceremony, His Majesty granted me an audience, and we had the opportunity to discuss the excellence of our bilateral relations. I also had the opportunity to make a courtesy call to the Prime Minister, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili and the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Mining, Mr Lebohang Thotanyana. All these meetings were warm and fruitful and confirm the importance and strength of our bilateral relationship.
LT: Given that this was your first time in Lesotho, what were your first impressions?
Farnaud: Yes, indeed, it was the first time, and I am really excited to begin my term here as the French ambassador and discover this beautiful country! France has a strong relationship with Lesotho, and I want to build on this relation and expand it. Apart from the political meetings, I had the opportunity of visiting an important and symbolic place in the history of Lesotho, Thaba-Bosiu. I also visited another important place in Lesotho’s history and for the French presence in Lesotho; Morija.
LT: Please tell us more about the historical ties shared by the two countries.
Farnaud: Our two countries enjoy a strong relationship which goes back to the summoning in 1833 of three missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Mission by King Moshoeshoe I. Throughout the nineteenth century, French missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, contributed to the formation of the Basotho people’s identity. This common history creates a strong link between our two nations. Through the missionaries, we have learned a lot about the people of Lesotho, its history as well as its culture.
LT: Tell us more about the cooperation between France and Lesotho?
Farnaud: Our bilateral cooperation is quite significant and covers several fields. The most important symbol of this cooperation is the Alliance Française of Maseru which was created in 1981. It is an important place for cultural events, informal meetings and of course French training. There are around 10 000 students learning French in Lesotho which is a large number! We support the Ministry of Education through teachers training, technical assistance and textbooks. This is an important part of our cooperation as language learning is key to the development of people-to-people relationships.
Another important field of cooperation for France is health. In this field, our assistance to Lesotho through multilateral funds amounts to almost USD30 million since 2002. One good example of this cooperation is the pilot project financed by UNITAID in the hospital of Botšabelo, on the fight against multi-resistant tuberculosis. Let me also mention our cooperation through the European Union (EU). The EU is one of the most significant donors in Lesotho, and France is one of the most important contributors to European development funds.
LT: France recently elected a new government. Are there any plans for engaging Lesotho and other African countries as yet?
Farnaud: The new government has just been announced. However, there is no doubt that Africa will remain a strong priority for France. Therefore, our historical relationship with Lesotho will continue to flourish and, I hope, get even stronger.
LT: France has some investments in Lesotho. Tell us more about these investments and how France can expand them?
Farnaud: There are several French companies working in Lesotho already, such as Total. A French company, Spie Batignolles, was involved in the first phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Now, other French companies are interested in the second phase of the project. We hope they will make a successful bid. There are also other fields of economic cooperation that can be developed, such as nutrition or mining, for instance. France and Lesotho can do a lot more together!
LT: Your visit to Lesotho coincides with the country’s elections. While we understand that’s not the reason you are here, but what general advice can you give to Basotho in relation to the upcoming elections?
Farnaud: First of all let me tell you that Lesotho is for the Basotho people, and it is not for me to give advice on internal politics. Of course, as we have a close relationship, we will follow the elections with interest. We will be sending a team to participate with other European embassies in a diplomatic watch on 3 June, in coordination with the Lesotho government.
We trust that these elections will be as fair and transparent as the previous ones. And we hope that they will create the conditions for the implementation by the Basotho people of the necessary reforms.