Govt warned over SADC recommendations

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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

Analysts have warned government against reneging on its promise to implement recommendations made by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s security and political challenges.

The commentators say failure to effect the recommendations could see Lesotho being shunned by its SADC neighbours and development partners, resulting in more suffering for ordinary Basotho because such sanctions would adversely affect the economy.

The pundits were reacting to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s speech in parliament this week, where he criticized the Commission and its findings before saying the government was committed to implementing its recommendations.

SADC commissioned the probe following the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao by fellow Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members on 25 June 2015.

The Commission, led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana, compiled a report after its investigation which took place between 31 August and 23 October 2015, and made several recommendations it hoped could restore normalcy to Lesotho.

Among the recommendations was the removal of army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, criminal investigations into the death of Lt-Gen Mahao should be started and lead to prosecution, constitutional reforms, the suspension of LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into the allegations proceed in line with international best practice, as well as amnesty for the 23 soldiers facing mutiny charges before the Court Martial.

In an interview after Dr Mosisili’s statement, Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN) Economic Justice Coordinator Sekonyela Mapetja said the government had no choice but to implement the recommendations.

“I heard what the prime minister said in parliament and noted how he managed to fool the majority of Basotho. He decided to hide the real issues in the last 10 minutes of his two-hour speech and in so doing, achieved two things which are the same. For his supporters, his grilling of the report confirmed that government is determined not to implement the Commission’s recommendations, while for his adversaries, it became clear that he is still arrogant and also determined not to implement the recommendations,” Mr Mapetja said.

“Both groups declared victory and went home when he was halfway through his presentation. But the few who persevered to the end were able to find out that government is left with no other option other than tucking its tail between the legs and implement the recommendations.

“But we welcome the speech especially in the third and last part, which is the position of government on the recommendations. For us, this is where the crux of the matter is although we are concerned that this salient part comes at the very end of his speech.”

Mr Mapetja also alleged that the government had failed to win the support of fellow SADC states ahead of the regional bloc’s Summit set for Swaziland in August this year.

Lesotho was nearly suspended from SADC during its Double Troika Summit held in Botswana in January this year after Dr Mosisili had refused to receive the Phumaphi report citing an ongoing High Court case in which LDF Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi was challenging the legitimacy of the inquiry. Dr Mosisili only accepted the report the following day, quashing the threat of suspension.

“Our analysis, as the LCN, is that the government had disregarded the recommendations on the belief that they would convince other SADC members to support them in opposing the Double Troika’s recommendations should a decision be taken to suspend this country from the regional body. We believe the government has failed to lobby for this support, hence this turnaround with this report of intent.

“For us, the speech would have been a very good update if it had been delivered in February (2016) because expectations this week were tangible results and not intentions.

“But it is up to the Double Troika (Botswana {SADC chair}, Mozambique {SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation chair}, South Africa, Tanzania, Swaziland and Zimbabwe heads of state and government) when it meets on 28 June and concerned sectors of Basotho to ensure the government does not renege on its commitment, notwithstanding our welcome of this soberness and ability to see real issues and commitment to do the right things by the government.”

On his part, National University of Lesotho political science lecturer, Professor Mafa Sejanamane, criticised Dr Mosisili’s statement which he alleged only sought to discredit the Commission.

“First, the prime minister’s statement is not a progress report as it was supposed to be. Rather, he tried to debate the rights and wrongs of the Commission in an effort to discredit its processes – something he should have done a long time ago. He should have said this in February when he tabled the Commission’s report in parliament,” Prof Sejanamane said.

“Government has tried all the tricks in the book to lobby the support of countries such as Botswana and Mozambique in defying SADC regarding these recommendations, to no avail. A delegation led by the deputy prime minister came back from these countries (early this year) mumbling that they will now implement the recommendations.

“But SADC wants to put out the fire permanently in Lesotho by forcing the government to remove Kamoli. Government cannot claim to be reforming anything if they fail to remove Kamoli.”

Prof Sejanamane shot down Dr Mosisili’s proposal for general amnesty for both the 23 soldiers facing mutiny charges before the Court Martial and LDF members implicated in serious crime.

“The prime minister is just playing to the gallery at the expenses of national interests. He is gambling with the future of Basotho because you cannot equate victims of crime with the perpetrator,” Prof Sejanamane said.

“If the prime minister and his government are doing this for purposes of delaying the implementation of SADC’s recommendations, they should expect serious consequences.

“What they are not aware of is that there is a universal jurisdiction that people who protect crime face the possibility of being imprisoned.”

Meanwhile, Dr Mosisili delivered Monday’s statement in the absence of all 55 opposition MPs who did not turn up in protest at the government’s alleged failure to speedily implement the SADC recommendations.

Recap of the SADC recommendations

In the interest of finding peace for the Kingdom of Lesotho, and bringing closure to the killing of Brigadier Mahao, the Commission proffers here below, some recommendations for consideration:

  • The Government of Lesotho should ensure that the criminal investigations on the death of Brigadier Mahao be pursued vigorously and that the LMPS is empowered and resourced accordingly. The investigation should be conducted expeditiously and comprehensively without any hindrances and that all physical evidence be surrendered. The finality of the investigations should lead to a transparent course of justice.
  • The general discontent of some Basotho with the Commander of LDF, Lieutenant General Kamoli and the conduct of the LDF under his command is disconcerting. In the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation, it is strongly recommended that Lieutenant General Kamoli be relieved of his duties as Commander LDF, and all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason be suspended while investigations in their cases proceed in line with international best practice.
  • The Commission has observed that some of the political and security problems peculiar to the Kingdom of Lesotho emanate from the Constitution of the Lesotho. The deficiencies and overlaps in the constitution with regard to mandates of security institutions, need to be looked into urgently with a comprehensive strategy to reform them.
  • The Commission has noted that the SADC Observer Mission to Lesotho (SOMILES) report covers extensively the areas of reform (constitution, security sector, public service and information and media) pertaining to the Kingdom. To avoid repetition, the Commission therefore recommends an accelerated implementation of the reforms encapsulated in the SOMILES report. SADC should come up with a direct strategy on how to assist Lesotho in the implementation of these reforms, and that the Lesotho Oversight Committee, established by the 3rd July 2015 Double Troika is operationalised.
  • Evidence before the Commission in respect of the mutiny, is that the alleged mutineers intended to kill 13 members of the LDF. Further, it shows that some of the complainants in the court martial, participated in the arrest of the suspects, which is a clear conflict situation, as they have personal interest in the cases. When this evidence is taken into consideration with that of the suspects subjected to torture, the object being to extract confessions from them, as well as the evidence that Lt General Kamoli himself, when he was reappointed as Commander of the LDF, stated that he would deal with those who celebrated this termination in 2014, it makes the whole case of mutiny highly suspect. In these circumstances, we recommend a facilitation of an amnesty that will cover the detained mutiny suspects and ensure the safe return of all members of the LDF who have fled Lesotho in fear for their lives.

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