Victims’ families reject “peace and unity” Bill

  • says passing it would cement Lesotho’s status as a rogue Kingdom of murderous politicians,
  • warn of the likelihood of revenge by aggrieved victims.

Herbert Moyo

FAMILIES of the victims of various human rights atrocities committed over the years by politicians and members of the security agencies have vehemently opposed the government’s plans to enact the National Peace and Unity Bill.

In a 15 June 2021 letter to His Majesty King Letsie III, political parties and foreign missions in Lesotho, the families said they were “dismayed” by the plans to push through the Bill “with the falsehood of creating an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation in the country”.

The letter is also copied to MPs, the Law Society of Lesotho, the Christian Council of Lesotho, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) and the Development for Peace Education (DPE).

Sixteen people including ‘Mamphanya Mahao, the widow of the slain army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, signed the letter. Others who signed include the families of slain police officers, Mokalekale Khetheng and Mokheseng Ramahloko.

“We are totally against this National Peace and Unity Commission Bill, and recommend the law to take its course to ensure full accountability by perpetrators of crimes.

“This Bill is nothing but a veiled attempt to bypass Lesotho’s justice system and shield criminal politicians from accounting for their outrageous impunities and perpetually imperiling Lesotho’s peace, stability and progress.

“Apart from the sinister intentions of this Bill, its intended tabling in parliament having circumvented all other vetting processes – through stakeholder participation – is an insult to the victims of atrocities, Lesotho’s judiciary and the constitution. That the Minister of Law and Justice, Lekhetho Rakuoane, would side-step all other processes and smuggle this Bill into parliament is a clear indication of government’s sinister intentions to rape Lesotho’s justice system at will and perpetuate lawlessness, disorder and political excesses.

“While this National Peace and Unity Commission Bill is a blatant deviation from the SADC resolutions emanating from Justice Phumaphi Commission recommendations, its passing would be an affirmation of Lesotho’s international reputation as a rogue Kingdom where murderous politicians are untouchable despite their open involvement in jeopardising the peace and stability of the country. SADC resolutions were clear in their prescription that those who participated in the events before and after the assassination of Lt. General Maaparankoe Mahao must be prosecuted.”

The families warned that enacting the Bill could lead to victims and their families taking the law into their own hands to avenge the atrocities they had suffered.

“Any deviation from SADC resolutions (to prosecute suspects) risks furthering violence and creating an unwanted culture of revenge which shall plunge Lesotho into irreversible chaos and anarchy.

“It speaks to the evil motives behind this Bill that its authors care less that it violates cardinal tenets of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, especially Sections 18 and 19 which respectively lay down that no law shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect and that every person shall be entitled to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law.

“We are dismayed by the insensitivity and irrationality of bestowing on suspect perpetrators of atrocities the power to make a law that shields them from accounting for crimes they committed. The families of the Victims wish for nothing but accountability for all past, present and future injustices committed by politicians and their allies. Failure to persecute those responsible in well-known incidents of killing, torture, trauma, maiming and damage to property will be a huge miscarriage of justice and risks converting Lesotho’s justice system into a jungle scheme where politically-connected murderers are shielded by self-centred laws yet the poor are tried and incarcerated for little misdemeanours,” the families said.

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