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TRC calls for withdrawal of the National Peace and Unity Bill

by Lesotho Times
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Herbert Moyo

A LEADING human rights organisation, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), has accused the National Reforms Authority (NRA) of falling into the same trap as the government and the head of the SADC facilitation team, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who failed to consult the victims when formulating the concept for the National Peace and Unity Bill.

The TRC said the NRA-led national stakeholders’ forum on achieving peace and reconciliation, which got underway yesterday in Maseru, has “fundamental flaws and deficiencies” because it is not driven by victims of human rights abuses.

To rectify the “flaws and deficiencies,” the TRC advised the NRA to conduct wide-ranging and inclusive consultations with victims without the involvement of the “elites to enable it to identify challenges and perceptions of individual victims as the direct consumers and beneficiaries to be affected by the intended Bill”.

The human rights body also called on the NRA-led Forum to urge the government to withdraw the National Peace and Unity Bill “to facilitate and enable the NRA to conduct extensive and inclusive consultations with the victims who are central to the legal and moral legitimacy of the whole process”.

The TRC’s criticisms are contained in its position paper tiled: “TRC Position on National Reforms Authority’s National Stakeholder Consultations on Pathways towards Sustainable Peace, National Unity and Reconciliation”.

In its position paper, the TRC said it “notes that the NRA has proposed a three-day National Stakeholder Forum on Sustainable Peace, National Unity and Reconciliation at Manthabiseng Convention Centre from 21 to 23 July 2021”.

“Amongst others, the aim of this Forum is to hold discussions on mechanisms for peace-building, national unity, national healing and reconciliation and how to balance justice and reconciliation.

“Having perused the concept note and the programme shared, TRC has identified some fundamental flaws, incoherencies, inconsistencies and deficiencies. Before delving into those deficiencies, it is important to highlight that Transitional Justice represents mechanisms and processes that are victim-centred and exist primarily to support victims of human rights violations. These mechanisms gain their moral legitimacy from the fact that victims will be directly affected by any transitional justice initiative and as such should be active participants in the formulation and implementation of transitional justice processes. Again, transitional justice mechanisms also serve as restorative justice mechanisms acknowledging the suffering of the victims and providing redress,” the TRC states.

It however, argues that the Forum is hamstrung from the very beginning as it is not victim-driven but seemingly led by the elites in government and SADC. Such an approach robs the Forum and its outcomes of the moral legitimacy that it can only have if it is victim-centred and victim-driven, the TRC argues.

The most glaring flaw is the incoherence in the objectives in the concept note and the means (methodology) used to achieve them in the programme. The fairly noble objectives centre on the victims but the Forum will comprise discussions and presentations from elites and ‘experts’ including a presentation by the SADC facilitator/ mediator (Moseneke).

“NRA has fallen into the trap the cabinet and the facilitator fell into by failing to consult the victims and civil society groups in order to adopt an inclusive and comprehensive approach that included individual and collective victims’ views when formulating the National Peace and Unity Bill. The Forum presentations have all the remnants of elitism – driven by the needs of the state and the SADC Facilitator with the victims either excluded or used as instruments of the Forum, rather than on their own terms.

“Despite the rhetoric claiming to facilitate victim and public participation in the invitation and concept note it is apparent that the victims will be used as instruments to justify whatever resolutions the Forum intends to formulate and pass.”

The TRC summarised the “flaws, deficiencies, inconsistencies, and incoherencies” of the NRA-led forum as follows:

  • The victims’ role and participation are not clearly defined – their role and level of participation is so limited that they are reduced to mere instruments to justify the resolutions of the elitist Forum
  • The victims have expressed their position on transitional justice but the decision makers have ignored their plight.
  • There is incoherence and misalignment in the objectives in the concept note and the means (methodology) used to achieve them in the Programme.
  • The Concept Note, Invitation and the Programme do not address the parallel process that the cabinet has taken by formulating the National Peace and Unity Bill which is before National Assembly.
  • What impact will the resolutions of the Forum have on the cases before the court(s) of law or those scheduled to be instituted?
  • Without victim’s active participation the Forum’s resolutions shall lack legitimacy and without harmonisation and inclusivity, the resolutions of Forum risk being void due to inconsistency with the Constitution.

To rectify the “deficiencies”, the TRC called on the NRA to go back to the drawing board and consult the victims first.

It also called for the withdrawal the National Peace and Unity Bill to enable the NRA to first consult the victims and other stakeholders on how best peace and reconciliation can be achieved.


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