SADC leaders worry over Lesotho’s political volatility

By Innocent Gore recently in Ezulwini, Swaziland

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) has expressed concern at the changing political dynamics in Lesotho that have necessitated the holding of snap elections in the country and urged the kingdom to address the fundamental challenges and bring about political stability.

Political strife has thrown the mountainous kingdom back to the polls hardly a year after SADC ordered the country to hold a snap election.

This followed a motion of no confidence passed in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili by the country’s parliament recently.  Mosisili lost the vote to an overwhelming opposition bloc quartet of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the newly founded Alliance of Democrats (AD), which commands the support of 74 members in the 120-member National Assembly. At their Extraordinary Summit in Ezulwini, Swaziland, last week, SADC leaders received and deliberated on a report by the SADC-appointed facilitator on the situation in Lesotho, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the SADC Oversight Committee.

“Summit mandated the facilitator and Oversight Committee to closely monitor the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho during the election period,” the SADC leaders said.

“Summit mandated the facilitator supported by the Oversight Committee to conduct a multi-stakeholder national dialogue before the elections set for 3 June 2017 with the aim of building consensus and trust among all stakeholders and charting the way forward for the implementation of SADC Decisions.

“Summit endorsed the convening of a Double Troika Summit soon after the new Government is formed after elections on 3 June 2017, to engage the new Government of Lesotho on the need to implement the SADC Decisions and the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry through a road map with clear timelines.

“The engagement should also emphasise the need to address the fundamental challenges, commitment to implement SADC Decisions and the consequences of not implementing the decisions and observing timelines,” the SADC leaders said in their final communique read by SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Tax at Lozitha Palace.

The SADC Double Troika comprises Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania.

Prime Minister Mosisili’s demise, according to analysts, was his failure to implement the SADC decisions handed down in 2016 and aimed at restoring peace and stability in the tiny kingdom.

Lesotho will hold elections on June 3, which will be the landlocked kingdom’s second snap poll in three years as political instability deepens.

Mosisili, who first ruled the country from 1998 to 2012, advised King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for elections. Election commission director Letholeng Ntsiki said US$19 million has been requested to fund the polls.

SADC has repeatedly called for political reform in the country, whose political instability dates back to the 1960s.

Lesotho last held a snap election in February 2015, following a failed coup attempt in 2014 against the then prime minister Thomas Thabane.

In the vote, Thabane lost power to Mosisili, who led a fragile coalition government.

A few months after he relinquished power to Mosisili, Thabane fled the country along with two other opposition leaders, claiming that their lives were in danger. Thabane and the two opposition leaders returned last month to join forces with Monyane Moleleki of the Alliance of Democrats (AD) to challenge Mosisili’s government at the ballot box. SADC’s decisions on Lesotho included the removal of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli from the helm of the Lesotho Defence Force, vigorous investigations into the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao, the suspension of soldiers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason, amnesty for detained mutiny suspects and reforms of the constitution, security as well as public service sectors.

Mosisili’s government has since retired Kamoli on December 1, 2016. Last month, the last batch of the 23 soldiers who had been incarcerated on suspicion of mutiny was released from the Maseru Maximum Prison.

The charges against them were dismissed by a SADC Commission of Inquiry that was set up to investigate Mahao’s assassination.

However, Mahao’s murderers are still at large with little progress made on political reforms that were boycotted by the opposition.

The government went further to make an attempt to give blanket amnesty to all security officers implicated in crimes perpetrated from 2007 to 2015, including Mahao’s murders and soldiers implicated in cases of murder and treason, through a controversial Amnesty Bill that died in its infancy after the sudden dissolution of parliament recently.

And analysts opined that the Bill’s prospects lay with Mosisili’s returning to power provided that he garners enough votes from the looming polls.

With elections on the horizon, Lesotho’s economic aspirations remain blurred as parliament, which was dominated by the opposition, refused to allow the presentation of the 2016/17 budget in a bid to push Mosisili to the edge.

The SADC Extraordinary Summit also discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and commended the Episcopal Conference (CENCO) for the renewed mediation efforts.  It urged stakeholders in the DRC to finalise the Specific Arrangements for the Implementation of the 31 December 2016 Political Agreement, in particular the nomination of the chairperson of the National Monitoring Committee and encouraged the opposition to expeditiously submit the nominees for the position of Prime Minister.

The SADC Extraordinary Summit called upon the international community to support the DRC in the electoral processes that are expected to facilitate peaceful and successful elections.

As part of the 31 December 2016 Political Agreement apparently finalised by the government and the opposition, President Joseph Kabila will step down as president of the DRC after elections are held before the end of this year.

The deal seeks to end a lengthy stalemate in the country.

“We have reached agreement on all points,” said Marcel Utembi, the bishop who chairs, CENCO, which oversees the talks was quoted as saying.

Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, DRC’s justice minister, also confirmed that a deal had been reached, saying: “Everything is settled.” Kabila has been holding on to power although his second and final five-year term ended on December 20, 2017.

The deal envisages a “political transition” with fresh presidential elections to be held at the end of 2017.

The agreement also guarantees that Kabila will not seek a third mandate and lays the groundwork for a “national transition council” charged with carrying out the agreement.

It was not yet clear who the opposition parties would nominate for the position of Prime Minister as their previous leader and nominee for the position, veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi, died on 1 February.

If the agreement follows through, it will be DRC’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

The SADC Extraordinary Summit also urged parties to the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation Reintegration and Resettlement programme to re-initiate it urgently to address the needs of those in refugee camps and the surrender of elements that are still in combat.

The summit noted that the mandate of the United Nations monitoring force in the DRC, MONUSCO-FIB, expires on 31 March 2017 and urged for a renewal to be aligned with Chapter VII of the UN Charter on peace enforcement so as to enable MONUSCO-FIB to deliver effectively, and to provide for the necessary means and capabilities to address the threat of the negative forces and the asymmetrical warfare that has emerged.

Sporadic clashes in the eastern parts of the DRC, where there are a number of armed groups, have threatened the country’s peace over the years and threatens to put a blot on the SADC region which is one of Africa’s most peaceful.

On the outbreak of the fall armyworm in the SADC region, the summit agreed to improve co-ordination and collaboration efforts to promote a harmonised approach in the management and control strategies for fall armyworm and other plant and livestock pests.

The summit reaffirmed its solidarity and SADC’s responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the people following the effects of Cyclones Dineo and Enawo which resulted in flooding other disasters.  It encouraged all member states to consider providing humanitarian relief support to the affected member states.  The summit directed the SADC Secretariat to urgently finalise and operationalise the regional disaster preparedness and response mechanisms as well as operationalization of the Regional Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund.

Some SADC member states, notably Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were hit hard by Cyclone Dineo, which caused severe flooding, destroying roads and bridges and other infrastructure.

March 2017
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