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Evacuation of Lesotho Peace Corps Volunteer,
Faye Farmer


Lesotho soldiers, riot control in election fraud demonstration
Lesotho soldiers at election fraud demonstration
photo by Mail & Guardian


Boccaccio's - famous watering hole run by Rolf, a german, and his wife in Maseru, Lesotho.  Employed at least 5 Basotho.Boccaccio's - famous watering hole run by Rolf, a german, and his wife in Maseru, Lesotho.
Employed at least 5 Basotho.
photo by F.E. Farmer

Sales House (National chain) in Maseru, Lesotho, with UNICEF car in front of it.Sales House (National chain) in Maseru, Lesotho, with UNICEF car in front of it.
photo by F.E. Farmer

Auberge - fancy French restaurant in Maseru, Lesotho Oct98Auberge - fancy French restaurant in Maseru, Lesotho Oct98
photo by F.E. Farmer

South African Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki
South African Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki
photo by Mail & Guardian

South African Communist Party South African Communist Party

Nelson Mendela Nelson Mandela  
photo by Mail & Guardian

Maseru, Lesotho unrest
Discontent: Protesters take to the streets in Maseru
photograph: micheal allentoft (Mail & Guardian)

Tensions run high in Lesotho, with marches, beatings and policewater-cannon charges, as a belated recount reveals evidence of election fraud. WILLIAM BOOT reports

SADC helicopter
SADC helicopter, medical evacuation

Lesotho looting
Lesotho looting
photo by Mail & Guardian

Hleso
Hleso            Women

Soldiers
Soldiers

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 01:55:20 -0700 (PDT) 
From: faye farmer, f_e_@hotmail.com  
Cc: caldwell@aztec.asu.edu  

Hello everyone! Iím fine. Iíve finally found an Internet cafe near where Iím located. Iíll try to get this out so that you all have a very clear idea of where Iím at physically and emotionally. Sorry it has to be a form letter, but ya know...I donít know if I could do this too many times. 

Last Tuesday (Iíve even forgotten the date), SADC forces entered Lesotho through the Maseru Bridge border. The politics donít interest me at this point. Way too complicated and we all have our own ideas and opinions about what happened. Instead, Iíll tell you how it affected Peace Corps operations in this country. I saw the news that night on my Ntateís T.V.I was amazed at the destruction.

Maseru in flames and smoke.
Disturbing, but as Iím almost 5 hours away from there, I couldnít really relate to the pictures. I listened to VOA and BBC that night on my radio. I still didnít understand exactly what was happening and how it affected me. 
 

Wednesday morning I got the good news that my family thought my calico cat was to give birth that day or very soon. We were afraid the occasion would take place on my bed, so they gave me a box. Growing up in Tempe, city life and all, I have not ever had the chanceto see so many things give birth as I have in Lesotho over the past year.The cat was the closest thing to me at this point. She was going to give birth in my house!!! How exciting!! I had the BOX!!! I left for Dalewe Primary School around 11 am to finish a world map we were making. I was so nervous I would miss the grand event that I was very reluctant to leave. I finally managed to get my butt out the door, assuring my calico that Iíd return and help her through her time.  

We finished the map at the school around 2.30 pm thatday. I walked the 45 minutes back to my house, only to discover that my calico had not produced the kittens. I scolded her, they said youíd give birth! When? Silly me. I laid down to read a little before making my dinner.  

At 3.30 pm, I heard a honk outside. I got up, looked out the window and saw a Peace Corps vehicle. I walked outside to greet them and everyone looked worried. Two volunteers from Mphaki and one from Quthing gave me the news. I had 20 minutes to pack anything I couldnít replace in one bag, because we were being consolidated in Mohaleís Hoek, about 60 Km north of Quthing. I freaked. Luckily, one of my good friends (Rick) was there to calm me and help me pack. I have little to nothing in the way of expensive or necessary stuff, so packing wasnít such a problem.   It took another 2 and a half hours to reach another volunteer on the road to Mohaleís Hoek. A half hour to pack...Another volunteer to pick up (Willa) - it was 8pm when we had a flat tire 30 Km before Mohaleís Hoek.
The roads are desolate and scary in Lesotho at night, especially this night. The 7 of us and a Peace Corps driver managed to change the flat in about 15 minutes. Off we went into Mohaleís Hoek. 
 

There were overturned cars, kids flagging down cars, looted items in the road, trucks without license plates on them, and a large orange glow over the city as we turned up the road to the Farmer Training Center (Daisyís).
Gunshots were echoing in the distance.
This was the closest to uncontrolled, unchecked violence I hope ever to come into contact with in my life. Needless to say, we were all tired, angry, upset, hungry, and distressed. Many of us had been retrieved from villages where NOTHING was going on except daily life. Weíd just been driven INTO the fight.
 

The next morning, after none of us slept at all, we packed up the Peace Corps vehicle and traveled to Zastron, across the Mohaleís Hoek border post. We watched the refugees pass us as we arrived in town,even seeing several other NGOís trying to get their people out of Lesotho too. This was Thursday morning. We were put up in the only hotel in Zastron. As we made our way around the tiny Free State town, every white South African expressed compassion and offered their assistance to us. Every black South African gave us the thumbs up, hoping weíd get to go back. Every Mosotho we talked with was shocked, angry and sad, along with us. We all called home and tried to reassure our parents and loved ones. 

By Friday afternoon, everyone on our evacuation list was collected. Twenty six in all. From Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohaleís Hoek, and Quthing Districts. We got word that evening that we were leaving for consolidation of all volunteers in Pretoria the next morning. It hit us all very hard that night. Not only had we left our homes and families in Lesotho and moved towards Mohaleís Hoek, but weíd crossed the border, and now they were taking us even farther away, telling us to expect to be in Pretoria for a couple of days. Iíve never seen more heart broken people. 

We arrived in Pretoria on Saturday. On Sunday, most of us went to church to pray for everyone involved, or slept because of the incredible shock we were going through, or walked around Hatfield, Pretoria. Mostly we just tried to realize where we were and why. On Monday, we had our first meetings at the American Embassy here. Not much in updates on Lesotho or safety there. On Tuesday we met again and tried to think about options for returning to Lesotho or going home, not much more information was released. They gave us until next Wednesday, at which time Peace Corps Washington and Peace Corps Lesotho will let us know definitively where weíll be heading. After that date, it is expected that weíll be here an additional 3-5 days doing conference work in order to return to Lesotho or home or transferring to another African country. My training group gathered yesterday to talk about being evacuated, the issues we had with Lesotho and Peace Corps before leaving, the issues we have now. I cried. I realized that I like denial. Itís premature to even consider anything; going home,going back to an incredibly poor and unstable country, going through some other training to enter another program in a different country. Sometimes I just think itís unfair - everything thatís happened. I donít blame any one or group. Iím just angry that it had to come to the point of me leaving my wonderful village, my beautiful family, and my calico cat. Weíre all dealing in our own ways here. Weíre all supporting one another. Some are quiet, some are talkative, some drink, others exercise. Itís the most difficult thing Iíve ever had to go through in my entire life. I pray for Lesotho, I pray for the Basotho, I pray for my return to Ha Mpapa, and pray for everyone whoís been affected by these happenings. I ask that you all think of us as you read this. 

Thatís the news. Iím fine. Tired, angry, upset, etc. Who wouldnít be? But Iím safe, fed, have money, a place to sleep...things some others do not have at this moment. I count my blessings every moment. I send my love to everyone here and there who reads this. Please send it out to others if they are concerned. Iíll write again as things develop here. (Now that I know where an Internet cafe is.) Again - Iím fine. 

Ka Khotso, Faye (F.E.)

  
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