Lesotho needs all-inclusive govt – Odinga



Billy Ntaote

FORMER Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called on Lesotho to form an all-inclusive government consisting of the major parties to expedite the implementation of constitutional and legal reforms needed to attain political and security stability.

Mr Odinga, who led the African Union’s (AU) observer mission to the 28 February elections, said their findings revealed that Lesotho had structural problems of governance which needed to be reformed.

AU Head of Election Observer Mission Raila Odinga
AU Head of Election Observer Mission Raila Odinga

The AU mission comprised of 40 observers drawn from the continent’s electoral management bodies, civil society organisations and the Pan-African Parliament, among others.

Its mandate entailed observing, collecting and analysing the general elections data to ensure it is in line with relevant AU instruments such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the OAU/AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa and the African Union Guidelines for Election Observation and Monitoring Missions.

“We recognised that Lesotho’s problem is systemic,” said Mr Odinga while delivering the AU observer mission’s preliminary findings on the polls on Monday.

“So the problem is in the structure of the government which has partisan political parties. In Kenya we also had problems of this nature that resulted in a conflict in which a lot of lives were lost.”

He said while the continental bloc’s recommendations were not prescriptive, the incoming administration could take a cue from Kenya’s experiences.

“There is an urgent need for constitutional reforms, political reforms, security reforms and even economic reforms,” Mr Odinga noted.

“Such reforms should be inclusive of all political parties, such as the grand coalition government we had in Kenya that allowed us to review our constitution.”

He added that only through an all-inclusive political process would stakeholders support the reform process.

Mr Odinga said as part of the AU observer mission’s mandate to make an independent, objective and impartial assessment of the elections, they also held meetings with security agencies, “since the security sector plays a huge role in the reform process”.

“The military showed us the Act of parliament that empowers the army to intervene in the event of internal problems in Lesotho,” he said.

“In the case of Lesotho, the role of the military is different from other countries as there is only one neighbour in South Africa and so the army ends us getting involved in internal issues when there are no external challenges over boundaries.”

Mr Odinga also said the observer mission had also noted that the police and army were “reportedly politicised” and caught up in the tensions between the coalition government partners. They had also observed that the relationship between the army and police remained frayed despite the signing of the Maseru Security Accord and a Memorandum of Understanding to support all efforts to help stabilise the security situation.

“On the other hand, security forces allege interference by politicians in the discharge of their constitutional obligations,” he said.

He said the roles and functions of the army and police need to be reviewed so that they are clearly defined.

“We need to know where the buck stops. We can’t have a situation whereby there is no clear commander of the army,” said Mr Odinga.

“In Kenya, the president seeks Parliamentary approval for the deployment of the armed forces. However, that is vague in Lesotho.

“So there is need for Lesotho to undergo such reforms for the attainment of both political and security stability.”

The observer mission, he said, had also noted that the constitution of Lesotho does not provide the mechanisms for the operationalisation of a coalition government, “nor does it effectively anticipate the dynamics of coalition politics”.

“The AU election observer mission encourages Parliament to undertake comprehensive constitutional legal and institutional reforms addressing, among other things, coalition governance, floor crossing, public sector reforms and dispute resolution mechanisms,” he added.

“Undertake urgent measures, including legislative measures on security sector reform that ensures the civilian control of the military and the police in line with the constitution of Lesotho.”

Mr Odinga called on stakeholders in the body politic to inculcate a culture of constitutionalism and uphold the rule of law.

He said Lesotho needs a visionary and transformative leadership with the national interest uppermost in their priorities above partisan concerns.

“The AU election observer mission implores Lesotho’s leaders to engage in dialogue aimed at resolving the current challenges as well as laying a solid foundation for consensus building and mutual trust,” Mr Odinga said, adding that politicians should desist from interfering with and involving security agencies in party political agendas.

He said the incoming government should also provide the judiciary with adequate human and financial resources as well as security, “to enable them to carry out their mandate without fear”.

On the issue of the media, Mr Odinga called for a regulatory framework that ensures adherence to sub-regional, regional and international norms and best practices.

He further said, in the interim, the observer mission had declared the elections peaceful, transparent and generally reflecting the will of the Basotho electorate. Mr Odinga also urged political actors and the electorate to maintain the peaceful conduct which they had displayed before and during the elections.

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