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Govt leaves door open for Truth Commission

by Lesotho Times
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Keiso Mohloboli

THE government has left the door open for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which is one of the key demands set out by the opposition for its continued participation in the reforms process.

The government however, rejected a string of other opposition demands which include the creation of a government of national unity (GNU), the removal of SADC troops from Lesotho and the release of soldiers accused of murder and other serious crimes.

The government’s latest position on the TRC is contained in the presentation that it made last week to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Double Troika Summit in Luanda, Angola.

The TRC is a forum for perpetrators of violence to “come clean” by speaking about their past transgressions and requesting amnesty from prosecution. Lesotho has been bedevilled by bouts of political and security instability characterised by numerous unresolved crimes such as murder.

In South Africa, a TRC was established after the abolition of apartheid in 1994. It was also set up in Sierra Leone in the wake of the 11 year civil war in the West African nation in 1999.

The self-exiled leader of the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing, called for a TRC to address infractions committed since 2007.

The TRC became one of the key demands of the opposition along with the release of soldiers including former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who are accused of murder and other serious crimes.

The four-party governing coalition also mooted establishing a TRC upon attaining power in June last year, with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki saying it would “give all those who had erred a chance to come clean”.

However, the government subsequently made an about-turn on the issue with the-then government spokesperson, Joang Molapo, telling the Lesotho Times in December 2017 that the government would no longer take the TRC route but ensure that those implicated in various criminal acts are prosecuted.

Chief Molapo said that “the root of reconciliation is in the truth which will be found in the courts of law”.

“A TRC is not a possibility, and we are not interested in that discussion. All that what we want is for those people with cases before the courts to answer for themselves in order for justice to be served, and so that we can reconcile through the truth,” Chief Molapo said, adding that members of the previous government were advocating for a TRC to avoid prosecution for crimes they were implicated in.

But in a possible change of heart, the government last week told the SADC leaders that although the TRC was not a precondition for participation in the reforms which all parties committed to in the reforms pledge prior to last June’s elections, it was however willing to discuss the issue.

“The opposition demanded the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“In its response, the government directed that there is a (Reforms) Pledge which was signed by all political parties prior to the 3 June 2017 national elections which does not put TRC as a prerequisite. However, this demand (for a TRC) can be dealt with at a later stages or separate for a,” the government said in its presentation to the SADC leaders.

The government also said it had acceded to the opposition’s demand for the withdrawal of the National Reforms Bill which would have paved the way for the establishment of a National Reforms Commission with a mandate to facilitate national dialogue on the envisaged reforms.

The government also said it was working with the SADC Oversight Committee to facilitate the safe return of exiled leaders and it had already scored an important success with the return of the deputy leader of the Democratic Congress, Mathibeli Mokhothu in March this year.

“A ministerial committee headed by Honourable Thesele ‘Maseribane has been established to engage with Honourable Metsing and Honourable Tšeliso Mokhosi, both leaders of the LCD who are currently in exile, on facilitating their participation in the national reforms,” the government said.

Commenting on the opposition’s demands for an end to the alleged torture of suspects by the police, the government said no one had come forward after  it requested that victims to report “so that law can take its course on perpetrators”.

The government also said that it rejected the demand for a GNU on the grounds that there was a constitutionally-elected government in place.

It also rejected the demand for the withdrawal of the SADC Standby Force, saying its presence was necessary to forestall instability in the country.

The government further rejected the demand for the release of prisoners on the grounds that the law must be allowed to take its course in criminal proceedings.

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