Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has urged development partners not to interfere in Lesotho’s internal affairs.
The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, who came to power as head of a seven-party government after the 28 February 2015 snap elections had produced a hung parliament, says Lesotho is a sovereign state whose governance is entirely up to Basotho.
Addressing a media briefing in Maseru on Monday, Dr Mosisili said interference by the international community in Lesotho’s domestic affairs contravened the ‘non-interference in each other’s internal/domestic affairs’ principle, which he added was “important to sustain countries’ relations.
“The person each country appoints to head its military and police is an internal matter that does not warrant external interference,” Dr Mosisili said.
“The main principle guiding countries’ relations is that they should desist from interfering in each other’s internal or domestic affairs.”
Dr Mosisili was responding to calls by Lesotho’s development partners, particularly the United States of America (USA), which was very vocal about the reinstatement of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lt General Tlali Kamoli. Lt Gen Kamoli was fired last August fired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for alleged insubordination, resulting in political unrest and violence between the military and police, and a failed coup de tat.
In a press statement issued on 27 May 2015 by the American Embassy in Lesotho, the USA noted it was concerned no one was held accountable for the August 2014 political unrest, and that the Lesotho government had reinstated Lt Gen Kamoli.
“The government of Lesotho has reinstated one of the most polarising figures from that difficult period as Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force,” the statement by Jeff Rathke, Director-Office of Press Relations, read. “Other recent troubling developments include reports of kidnappings and abuse within the LDF, murder of a prominent supporter of the major opposition party and failure to provide security for former PM Thabane.”
The USA further said as Lesotho’s longstanding friend and partner, it was urging government to take “robust, concrete steps” to address these concerns and demonstrate commitment to the rule of law and “to the vital democratic principle of civilian control over the military”.
However, Dr Mosisili was adamant that despite existing relations between Lesotho and its development partners, “we are a sovereign state”.
“Our humble yet firm plea is that we be afforded the respect we deserve as a sovereign state because there is never going to be a day when we will attempt to impose our opinion on decisions made by countries that we have relations with,” Dr Mosisili said.
“We will never attempt to tell them who to appoint for the running of their countries’ military and police.”
Asked if his firm stance against non-interference would not put Lesotho at risk of losing benefits from the USA, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the second phase of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact, which is still in its development stage, Dr Mosisili briskly said AGOA was already in the bag and that “Basotho have nothing to worry about”.
Lesotho is a beneficiary of AGOA, which allows certain sub-Saharan African nations to export a range of goods to America duty-free. American lawmakers are deciding whether to extend the trade agreement when it expires in September.
On the MCA Compact, the premier attempted to allay fears by stating that a fortnight ago, the USA had sent a high-powered delegation to discuss with government “the second phase of the compact”.
“The AGOA agreement is going to be renewed so there’s not a need for people to worry. On the question of the MCA, we are in the process of asking the USA for a second compact,” Mosisili said.
“They have already sent a high-powered mission to Lesotho and we are working well together, there’s no need for Basotho to fear.”
However, despite the PM’s stinging warning, if Lesotho does not convince its development partners especially the USA otherwise, particularly with regard to the alleged abuse and gross-violation of human rights by the military, labour groups say Lesotho is at risk of losing 35,000 jobs in the textile industry if the Americas drop the nation from its preferential trade accord because of worsening political tension in the country.
This, according to the labour groups, is possible because Swaziland has already suffered a similar fate, having been dropped from AGOA due to the incessant gross-violation of human rights by the government.
Eligibility for AGOA includes respect for the rule of law, efforts to combat corruption and protection of human rights. Swaziland was removed as a beneficiary of AGOA in June last year, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and worsening poverty in the absolute monarchy.