Exiled leaders stand ground on return

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Leader of Main Opposition Party All Basotho Convention (ABC)  Thomas Thabane  (3)
Leader of Main Opposition Party All Basotho Convention (ABC) Thomas Thabane

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

THE tripartite opposition bloc has insisted their exiled leaders would only return to Lesotho when their security concerns were “genuinely” addressed and “legitimate processes” for reforms were put in place by the government.

This was in response to the resolutions of the two-day SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government that ended yesterday in Mbambane, Swaziland.

The summit’s communique urged the three exiled opposition leaders to return home “to pave the way for an inclusive participation in the ongoing constitutional, parliamentary, security sector and judiciary reforms in the Kingdom of Lesotho”.

Former premier and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 saying they feared for their lives after being alerted of a plot to kill them by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). However, the LDF has consistently denied the allegations.

The communiqué also took note of the “progress report on SADC decisions and roadmap on the constitutional, parliamentary, security sector and judiciary reforms as presented by the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho”.

“The summit mandated the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation to assess the report and submit the report to the summit,” reads part of the communique.

SADC facilitator to Lesotho and South African Vice-President, Cyril Ramaphosa, was also lauded in the communique “for his stewardship in facilitating the process in the Kingdom of Lesotho”.

The bloc also acknowledged a two-day Security Sector Reform workshop held in July and facilitated by African Union expert on security policy and security sector reform Dr Norman Mlambo.

“Summit noted the progress made in convening the security sector workshops in the Kingdom of Lesotho and adopted the recommendations of the workshops.”

The summit also encourages the government “to continue implementing SADC decisions and all stakeholders to participate in the reform processes”.

The decisions were made during a special SADC Double Troika Summit held in Gaborone, Botswana on 28 June 2016 to discuss Lesotho’s political and security situation.

Among the decisions was for Lesotho to ensure exiled opposition leaders returned home by the end of August, implement the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations and develop a comprehensive roadmap with clear actions and timeframes. The Mountain Kingdom was also urged to ensure the security sector and constitutional reforms were comprehensively inclusive and involved all stakeholders.

However, commenting on the communiqué on behalf of the exiled opposition leaders yesterday, BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo said nothing so far had been put in place to ensure the concerns they raised would be addressed.

The exiled leaders have insisted they could only return to Lesotho when Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is no longer the LDF commander. While Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in June had hinted on talks towards “on a mutually agreeable solution” with Lt-Gen Kamoli, he has since been coy on the issue.

Chief Molapo said SADC was aware the opposition leaders fled the country due to “serious security threats”.

“Otherwise, SADC would have exercised its powers to expel the leaders from South Africa. But because the regional bloc knows fully well their lives are in danger in Lesotho, they haven’t done so,” he said.

“While our leaders want to come home, they can only do so through a legitimate process. What the government of Lesotho is doing now is absolutely unacceptable. They are conducting their so-called reforms without the input of all stakeholders. The report and roadmap they presented before SADC is a secret and known only to themselves.”

Chief Molapo added: “Can SADC really expect opposition leaders to return home under the pretext they will take part in the reforms? If the government is keeping the reforms a secret, how does it intend to conduct them? Nothing from their conduct can make anyone believe they are willing to engage opposition leaders upon their return.

“I want to believe that by stating they had mandated the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security to assess the government of Lesotho’s report, SADC will only make a decision after that assessment. I don’t believe SADC can just accept Lesotho’s report well aware the government has excluded stakeholders in the reform processes.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Press Attaché, Motumi Ralejoe, told the Lesotho Times yesterday the government was “satisfied” with the summit’s resolutions.

In a curt response, Mr Ralejoe also indicated Dr Mosisili would, on Monday afternoon, hold a press conference “to brief everybody about the details of the summit”.

Meanwhile, civic groups falling under the “Alliance of Non-State Actors” have expressed concern over Swaziland’s King Mswati III’s taking over the SADC chairmanship saying it had “potential negative consequences for the SADC process in Lesotho unless proactive measures are taken”.

King Mswati III has been accused of committing human rights abuses in suppressing protestors demanding an end to his absolute monarchy and multi-party democracy.

Along with Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Mozambique, Swaziland was one of the countries whose human rights issues the SADC People’s Summit said needed “to be urgently dealt with” during the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.

The SADC People’s Summit is a forum of civil society organisations and social movements from the region that meets parallel to Heads of State and Government summit.

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