Solution on the horizon in Lesotho crisis

 

There is hope for a solution to the crisis in Lesotho after the coalition partners in the government in the mountain kingdom reached a number of agreements, including holding early elections in February next year and re-opening Parliament on October 17.

This followed SADC brokered talks that were aimed at finding a solution to the crisis triggered by an attempted military coup in August.

National general elections will now be held towards the end of February next year while Parliament will reconvene on October 17 this year.

The coalition government in Lesotho has been facing some challenges since its formation in 2012, and the situation worsened in the wake of an alleged coup plot by Lesotho’s military on August 30.

The coup was prompted in part by the suspension of Parliament in June by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane who was hitting back at his partners in the coalition government after they plotted a vote of no confidence against him. 

SADC had stressed the critical need to address all political and security challenges in Lesotho.

The 15-member grouping was leaving nothing to chance as it battled to deal with the crisis in the mountain kingdom.

The regional grouping convened an extra-ordinary Double Troika Summit on September 15 in Pretoria, South Africa to discuss and consider the developments in the two countries.

The Double Troika consists of the SADC Summit Troika and the SADC Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.

The Summit Troika is made up of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (SADC chairperson), Botswana President Ian Khama (deputy chairperson) and Malawian President Peter Mutharika (immediate past chairperson).

On the other hand, the SADC Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation consists of South African President Jacob Zuma as chairperson, deputized by Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, with Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba as the outgoing chair.

This Troika system vests authority in the group to take quick decisions on behalf of SADC that are ordinarily taken at policy meetings scheduled at regular intervals, as well as providing policy direction to SADC institutions in between regular SADC summits.

The Troika system has been effective since it was established by the SADC Summit at its annual meeting held in August 1999 in Maputo, MozambiqueAs when necessary, other Member States may be co-opted into the Troika system. In this regard, the Pretoria Double Troika Summit, was also attended by DRC and the United Republic of Tanzania.

SADC appointed South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to be the facilitator in the Lesotho dialogue.

His task was to facilitate dialogue among the coalition partners and other stakeholders in Lesotho to prepare for early elections, the reopening of parliament, stabilisation of the security situation and the return to constitutional normalcy.

Below is the Maseru Facilitation Declaration Communiqué by SADC Facilitator Deputy President Ramaphosa following another round of talks on October 2:

The SADC Double Troika of Heads of States and Government plus DRC and Tanzania meeting in Pretoria on 15 September 2014 mandated us as the SADC Facilitation Mission, to facilitate dialogue among all political and other role players in the Kingdom of Lesotho as part of efforts to assist the country to return to constitutional normalcy, political stability and restoration of peace and security.

In this context, the SADC Troika meeting in Pretoria built upon decisions of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security meeting held in Windhoek under the leadership of President of the Republic of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba.

The decisions of the Organ were subsequently endorsed during the SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government held in Victoria Falls in August 2014.

In pursuance of these objectives, we have over the past few weeks paid several official visits to the Kingdom. In this regard, we have paid courtesy call on His Majesty King Letsie III.

We consulted with Coalition partners in government.

We met all opposition political parties, the College of Chiefs, the IEC, the Council of Churches as well as the Non-Governmental Organisations. We also had an occasion to brief the Special Envoy of the Commonwealth, Dr Prasad.

During our meetings, we had an opportunity to share the SADC Terms of Reference with all political and other role players.

These terms of reference form the SADC Troika mandate which guide our facilitation process in Lesotho with a view to finding a lasting solution to the current security challenges and ensure the restoration of political stability and security.

Having canvassed these issues among all political and other role players within the Kingdom of Lesotho, I was encouraged by their patriotism and determination to act within the mandate of SADC and to move their country and its people out of the current political and security challenges.

In this regard and following consultations, I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with the majority of political stakeholders as follows:

1. His Majesty, King Letsie III, will reconvene parliament on October 17, 2014.

The sitting of parliament will be limited to the passing of a budget and all other related matters regarding the holding of elections.

2. National General Elections will be held towards the end of February 2015 and on a date to be set by His Majesty.

3. Parliament will be dissolved at the beginning of December 2014 to prepare for the holding of the general elections

4. All political parties represented in parliament are called upon to recognize their responsibility to the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho, to respect the Constitution, uphold democratic principles and secure the restoration of peace and of political stability and security in the Kingdom of Lesotho

5. All the citizens of the Kingdom of Lesotho, including non-governmental organisations, all other role-players, traditional, civic and religious are called upon to support this critical endeavour for the restoration of peace and political stability and security in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

6. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will be expected to conduct these elections on a free and fair basis. The SADC will assist the IEC in its efforts to hold credible, free and fair elections

May I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude and indeed that of SADC Heads of States and Government, to His Majesty King Letsie III for his support and guidance.

Our gratitude also goes to the Coalition parties led by Prime Minister Tom Thabane, leaders of all political parties in Lesotho and other role-players for their role in helping to bring this agreement to fruition and putting the interests of the country and people first. – Southern Times Writer/www.dfa.gov.za

October 2014
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