FRANCE’S ambassador to South Africa and Lesotho, Elisabeth Barbier, hosted belated Bastille Day commemorations on Monday at the residence of the European Union ambassador to Lesotho in Maseru.
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale and commonly referred to as Le Quatorze Juillet (the 14th of July).
Bastille Day commemorates the 14 July 1789 storming of the Bastille, a royal fortress that had come to symbolise tyranny. It was also the culmination of a violent revolution in Paris that had begun two days earlier, as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. Bastille Day celebrations are held throughout France, as well as around the world, and are marked by military parades, marches and fireworks.
It was the first time the event was held in Lesotho, with a host of senior government officials, diplomats, clergy and captains of industry among those in attendance.
In her address, Ms Barbier said: “On this day, we celebrate the call for freedom, but we also celebrate the unity of the French nation in memory of the Fête de la Fédération held on 14 July 1790, for the first anniversary of the day considered the start of the French revolution.
“To continue on this historic note, I would like to remind you that the relationship between France and Lesotho goes back to almost as far as the French Revolution. Indeed, it started with the summoning of the first of three missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Mission by King Moshoeshoe I in 1833.
“Through them, we were able to know Basotho better, their fearless fight for independence, but also their warmth and hospitality.”
Ms Barbier added the bonds between the two countries and people continue to grow.
“I need not remind you that today, the most visible French presence here in Maseru is the Alliance Française, which has been in existence since 1981,” said Ms Barbier.
“Their Majesties, the King and Queen, are frequent guests at cultural events organised by Alliance. We are very grateful for the continuous support given to our cultural and linguistic activities.
“Because of those bonds between our two countries, I would like to extend a message of friendship, respect and solidarity to the people of Lesotho. Lesotho has experienced trouble politically of late and France remains committed in assisting Basotho on their way to reconciliation, security and unity.”
On behalf of the government, Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane lauded the French embassy for holding Monday’s celebrations, adding such activities would strengthen the already established relations between the two nations.
“This is a convincing demonstration of the relations we have and further deepens the bond that Basotho have with the French people,” he said.
“The two countries have maintained a cordial friendship until today, which Lesotho still benefits from through initiatives such as the Global Fund and Food Security Fund.
“France also contributed to Lesotho’s commitment to education for all by introducing their language in our secondary schools, further providing our teachers with scholarships to master the language.”