CHURCH leaders under the umbrella body – Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) – say the Mountain Kingdom’s political challenges would not be solved by elections or the formation of a new government but through dialogue and constitutional reforms.
In a press statement issued this week, the CCL also called on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to work with transparency and honesty to ensure that the 3 June 2017 general elections are accepted by all the parties.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi OMI of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Mallane Taaso of the Anglican Church of Lesotho, Reverend Tšeliso Masemene of the Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa, Reverend ‘Mapeete Mokhosi of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Reverend Monaheng Sekese of the Assemblies of God Lesotho.
The church leaders acknowledged the 12 February 2017 return of three opposition leaders from their exile in South Africa and release of all the 23 mutiny accused soldiers on bail.
Former premier and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and his Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) counterpart Keketso Rantšo had sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 after alleging a plot to assassinate them by some rogue members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). They were later joined by political activists and soldiers who also made the same claim.
However, the LDF has vehemently denied the allegations.
For their part, the 23 soldiers were arrested between May and June 2015 for allegedly plotting to violently remove the LDF command. The LDF has since been releasing the detainees in batches under open arrest – a form of military bail – with the last seven released earlier this month.
“As the Christian Council of Lesotho we acknowledge the return of the political leaders from exile. We are also grateful for the release of the detained soldiers and we are also hoping that arrangements will be made for soldiers still in exile to return home too,” read part of the statement.
The church leaders also called on political leaders to hold their campaigns peacefully ahead of the polls. King Letsie III dissolved parliament on 6 March 2017 after the passing of a no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s seven-party coalition government on 1 March 2017.
Dr Mosisili was toppled by an alliance of the ABC, Alliance of Democrats, BNP and RCL after garnering the support of up to 74 MPs in the 120-member National Assembly, which just requires 61 seats to form government.
Soon after the vote, Dr Mosisili advised King Letsie III to dissolve parliament, with the monarch proclaiming 3 June 2017 as election day on Monday this week.
“We are also aware that His Majesty King Letsie III accepted the prime minister’s advice to dissolve parliament and call for national elections. With that being said, we plead with the political leaders to work in harmony, respect and peace as they prepare for the upcoming elections.”
The clerics underscored that no lasting peace and stability would come without reforms, even if with a change of government. The outgoing government had undertaken to implement constitutional and security sector reforms among others prior to the no-confidence vote.
“We are convinced that the prevailing political problems will not be solved by elections or the formation of another government in parliament, but through dialogue between the politicians as well as constitutional reforms so our plea is for them (politicians) to start working or those reforms,” the church leaders said.
“We also continue to plead with the IEC to work with transparency and honesty as they have done in the past so that the election results can be amicably accepted by all.”
They also expressed concern with the “killings, threats and torture” in society, urging the security agencies to play their role in ensuring public safety.
“We are concerned with the killings, threats and tortures taking place among the public. It is the responsibility of the government to offer security to the people, so we plead with the security bodies to ensure public safety.
“CCL also calls for the rights of members of the public to be respected such as free movement, freedom of speech and the right to live which are part of the constitution. Good governance protects the rights of the public,” the clerics added.