Kamoli exit: Too little too late?

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LDF Commander Lt, Gen Tlali Kamoli
LDF Commander Lt, Gen Tlali Kennedy Kamoli

THIS is the most pertinent question that cries out for an impartial answer as Lesotho teeters inexorably towards whether it will fully meet the requirements for its eligibility for being a beneficiary under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) extended by the United States.

Briefly, for countries to be eligible for these two facilities a country must be proven to uphold the rule of law, basic human rights, free enterprise policies, free press, governance, transparency and create an investor friendly environment for its economy to create employment opportunities AGOA offers. It’s a country duty free access to the lucrative US markets of its goods such as textiles and fabric.  The US also extends billions in economic assistance to such a country in areas covering all fronts such as health, wetlands rehabilitation, access to water, sanitation, HIV/AIDS eradication and many other sectors.

If a country loses out on AGOA for instance, it will be liable for re-evaluation for eligibility only after a lapse of two years, which is quite a frightening possibility.

These are precisely the requirements for eligibility that the US Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield spelt to government and other stakeholders on her recent two-day visit to Lesotho. In addition, the US envoy bemoaned the fact that for more than a year, government had been dilly-dallying on the implementation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) decisions to bring political and security stability to Lesotho that emanated from the Phumaphi Commission.  This Commission was appointed as a result of the killing on 25 June 2015 of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his colleagues while allegedly resisting arrest.

Four recommendations were adopted as SADC decisions emanated from this commission, these are in no particular order: (1) The removal of Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli from the helm of the army as the commission had gathered evidence that in order to among others, engender the integrity and image of the army among Basotho; the granting of amnesty to the detained soldiers at Maseru Maximum Security Prison whom the commission concluded had, through coercion, confessed to mutiny.  The return of all exiled political leaders; the investigation, suspension and prosecution through acceptable international standards of all people including soldiers who were responsible for killing of Mahao, murder and other crimes and (4) the implementation of the constitutional, security, judicial and public sector reforms as encapsulated in the SOMILES report headed by South Africa’s deputy president and SADC Facilitator Cyril Ramaphosa.  For now, I do not want to deal with the long-term merits of removing the commander from the helm of the army.  That topic belongs to another day.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield bemoaned the introduction of the Amnesty Bill 2016 that seeks to provide a blanket amnesty to members of the disciplined forces and state agents and operatives who were suspected of having committed criminal acts from 2007 to 2015. The US envoy rightly described this bill as intended to introduce a culture of immunity.

It is against this rather lengthy background that I invite the reader to draw conclusion on whether by releasing the army commander the government has done too little too late. It will be empirically observed from the above that Lesotho has at the time of going to press, only met the first requirement. As to whether it will implement the other requirements or shall I say SADC decisions, the nation is still waiting with bated breath.

However, at the time of going to press only a quarter of the requirements have been met. What is of critical importance, however, is that removing only the army commander will not be enough to qualify for eligibility.

Drawing from what the US envoy said in her exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times in its 3 November 2016, under the heading: “Lesotho faces the boot” it would appear that Lesotho to again be eligible for the two facilities, a number of requirements have to be met.

In that interview the US envoy is quoted saying “And the second one (that is, the SADC recommendation) was that the soldiers, who are currently imprisoned for alleged mutiny, be released.” “And so I had discussion with the government on these issues and encouraged them to implement the recommendations made by SADC.”

The US envoy further went on to instructively lament on Lesotho’s eligibility for the facilities, which I reckon laid down the requirements clearly for Lesotho:  “I don’t know what the verdict will be, but the writing is on the wall.”

From the foregoing it is clear that Lesotho has to make meaningful and concrete steps in implementation of the SADC decisions. That way, there might still be hope for Lesotho to save the situation in the eleventh hour and thereby stand in a favourable position in terms of eligibility for AGOA and MCC.  It is not all doom and gloom for Lesotho.

Clearly government has in the past been dragging its feet towards implementing all these recommendations. This tendency by government was most evident when dealing with SADC at various forums.

My reading of the practice of the US in the past has taught me that they will not be placated by the removal of the commander only. They will also look to government to implement the other decisions.  Past experience has shown that the US is not a paper tiger and it will insist and act on the implementation of the other decision.  The US will not dance to the delaying tactics tune of the government in the implementation.

The efforts of government in removing the army commander in the line with SADC decisions that emanate from the Phumaphi Commission are much appreciated but more needs to be done in implementing the other decisions as the sun, figuratively speaking, will set on Lesotho’s eligibility for the two facilities.  Though there has been a lot of dithering on the part of government since the SADC decisions were communicated to government on 18th January, for implementation, there is still time for government to execute though disturbingly there is very little room and time.

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