. . . as billions to flow into Mountain Kingdom for development projects
LESOTHO has been reselected for a second compact grant by the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), in a major boost that will see billions of maloti being invested in the country for various developmental projects.
The development is a major boost to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition after the United States, one of Lesotho’s biggest aid donors, had stalled in renewing the second compact programme over rampant human rights abuses perpetrated under former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s regime.
The Mountain Kingdom had been sweating over its eligibility for the game-changing developmental aid, after the MCC board had given the country until this month to implement set governance benchmarks.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the US Embassy in Lesotho, the MCC board met on Tuesday in Washington, DC and reselected Lesotho to restart the development of its second compact.
“The board recognised the concrete steps taken by the government of Lesotho over the past year that demonstrate a commitment to addressing MCC’s ongoing rule of law concerns, but noted that it will continue to closely monitor the situation,” reads part of the statement.
“Over the coming weeks and months, representatives from MCC will visit Lesotho to work along with government of Lesotho partners to identify priorities and facilitate consultations with civil society and the private sector to ensure that projects incorporate local perspectives and lead to sustainable know-how and self-sufficiency that continue long after MCC’s investment ends.”
While Communications Minister Joang Molapo surmised in an interview yesterday that the grant would be U$435 million (around M5.56 billion), US Embassy spokesperson Melissa Schumi Jones told the Lesotho Times no figure had been confirmed as yet.
“I don’t think there is any number to confirm at this moment, not from our side,” she said.
“This is the reselection process which now begins the process of determining priorities. So, there are no figures to confirm by any stretch.”
MCC is a multilateral American foreign aid agency established by the United States Congress in 2004, with beneficiary countries expected to meet certain conditions with regards to good governance and respect for the rule of law to qualify.
In 2007, MCC and Lesotho signed the first US$362.6 million (over M3 billion) compact to reduce poverty and spur economic growth.
The five-year compact among other things, helped fund the construction of Metolong Dam as well as various projects in health and sanitation.
Lesotho was supposed to receive its second compact last year, but on 16 December 2015, the MCC Board opted against voting on the issue, citing governance concerns.
The United States, one of Lesotho’s largest donor, was particularly concerned by the 25 June 2015 murder of former army chief Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao by his erstwhile colleagues who accused him of leading a mutiny plot, in addition to a series of other human rights abuses committed during the Mosisili era.
In December 2016, the MCC Board again deferred a vote on the reselection of Lesotho for a second compact “until governance concerns have been addressed”.
The US government insisted that Lesotho would only receive a second MCC compact after taking “concrete actions” that address concerns about “impunity and the rule of law” as well as implementing recommendations made by a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into instability in the Kingdom.
Lesotho’s eligibility for a second MCC compact was scheduled for March this year, but was , for the third time, deferred to this month to give the Americans time to assess progress in addressing rule of law and governance concerns.
Since a Dr Thabane-led four-party coalition government assumed power in June 2017, it committed to prosecute people implicated in various unresolved crimes especially in the military.
A number of LDF members have already been arrested and charged with various crimes, including former LDF commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.
The former army chief was in October this year charged with murdering Sub-Inspector Ramahloko along with three other LDF members.
Lt-Gen Kamoli was also charged with 14 counts of attempted murder for the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesiah Thabane, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
Eight LDF members have also been charged with murdering Lt-Gen Mahao, while the 23 soldiers were acquitted of mutiny charges this week.
The actions are in line with the SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendations to hold all those involved in serious crimes accountable to ensure lasting peace in the country. The actions were also in line with the governance benchmarks set by the Americans.
Prior to ending his tenure in October this year, former US Ambassador to Lesotho, Matthew Harrington, told the Lesotho Times in an exclusive interview that the prosecution of members of the LDF implicated in various unresolved crimes sent a “strong signal” of Maseru’s commitment to “eliminating a pattern of impunity”.
For his part, Chief Molapo said Lesotho’s reselection for the second compact was testimony of the government’s commitment to re-establishing the rule of law.
“It (reselection) tells you that now there is rule of law in Lesotho. This is a clear statement by the US and the world as a whole that Lesotho is on the right track,” the minister said.
“It also informs Basotho that there is a huge economic prize for doing the right thing and negative consequences if the country pursues the poor policies that were implemented during the previous regime.
Chief Molapo said the government was determined to professionalise the army and to ensure it operates within the confines of the law.
“We have all sorts of experts in the army, but the army does not govern. The right to govern this country is accorded by the masses and only those legitimately elected will govern this country,” he said.
“The second compact will bring billions of maloti into the economy which will shake-up our construction sector in a positive manner.
“It will coincide with the implementation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II which is also going to have a positive impact on the country’s infrastructure.”