THE government has ruled out establishing a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), saying they would leave the courts of law to prosecute people implicated in various acts of violence.
The TRC was initially envisaged as 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 Africa, the court-like restorative justice body was established in South Africa — 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 four-party governing coalition mooted establishing a TRC upon attaining power in June this year, with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki saying it would “give all those who had erred a chance to come clean”.
Former deputy premier, Mothetjoa Metsing, also called for a TRC to address infractions committed since 2007.
However, Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Joang Molapo, this week told the Lesotho Times the government would no longer take the TRC route but ensure that those implicated in various criminal acts are prosecuted.
Chief Molapo, who is government spokesperson, indicated 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,” he said.
“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.”
The minister said members of the previous government were advocating for a TRC to avoid prosecution for crimes they had been implicated.
“The people who are calling for the TRC are the same ones that rejected the Amnesty Bill when they felt secure in power.
“They only became advocates of the bill when they realised that power was slipping away from them. They don’t want to face the consequences of their actions.”
The South African Development Community (SADC), which has dispatched security and intelligence experts to Lesotho to stem the country’s perennial instability, also intimated that Lesotho may attain lasting peace and stability by establishing a TRC.
However, Chief Molapo stressed that a solution for Lesotho’s instability woes lay in the envisaged multi-sectoral reforms. Lesotho has embarked on the implementation of constitutional, parliamentary, judiciary, media and other reforms at the prompting of SADC to nip the perennial instability in the bud.
“The reforms process is important in that it will set the country on the right path in ensuring peace and stability for the next 50 years,” he said, adding that the opposition is trying to throw spanners in the reforms.
“The government’s hope and expectation is that every stakeholder will be around to contribute in reconciling the country. Countries that are friends of Lesotho are expecting everybody who has a stake to participate and what the opposition is trying to do is frustrate the implementation of the reforms.
“We have approached the opposition leaders who fled the country to return home for the reforms process and we intend to approach them again, but then, there is a stage where we will give up on them and the reforms will continue with or without them.”
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, his deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi and Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader Mathibeli Mokhothu fled the country separately in August this year citing threats to their lives.
Mr Metsing has since rejected the government’s invitation to a Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Reforms saying it was a ploy to lure him to his death.
Instead, the former deputy premier has called for SADC to mediate talks with the government over his and other exiled leaders’ return to “ensure transparency and honesty”.
Responding to Mr Metsing’s plea for SADC mediation, Chief Molapo said: “Like I mentioned before, these people are just trying to frustrate the reforms process through unrealistic demands.
“SADC is already in the country so what else do they want. Again, I don’t think it will be a problem to offer them SADC security if that is what they want.”
He added: “However, being under SADC protection does not mean they will be untouchable. If they are needed by the police or in the courts to respond to the cases they may be facing, they will be made available. SADC will protect them from whoever they say wants to kill them.”