SADC Summit Looks to Consolidate Peace in Lesotho

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Consolidating peace and security in the kingdom of Lesotho is high on the agenda as Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders meet Tuesday in Mbabane, Swaziland.

Lesotho has witnessed political violence in recent times, including an attempted coup and the assassination last year of Maaparankoe Mahao, the former Lesotho Defense Force commander.

The SADC Double Troika summit held this past June in Gaborone, Botswana, mandated South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to help Lesotho consolidate peace and security.

The opposition says despite the SADC effort the government has taken no concrete steps towards political reform.

But Motumi Ralejoe, spokesman for Lesotho’s prime minister said the government has instituted some reforms which will be reported to the summit by Ramaphosa.

“First and foremost is my country is very peaceful and I believe that many people can attest to that. However, the understanding is that when the ministerial committee met in Mozambique, a number of issues were addressed, and Lesotho also insured that there was progress with regards to what had stated and put before to ensure that Lesotho is adhering to the SADC decision,” he said.

Ralejoe said the Lesotho government has initiated constitutional, parliamentary, judicial, and public service reforms.

Following the assassination last year of former Lesotho Defense Force commander Mahao, several prominent opposition leaders, fearing for their lives, fled to neighboring South Africa.

They included former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who is the current leader of Lesotho’s main opposition party.

Part of Ramaphosa’s mandate was to facilitate the return of the opposition party leaders from South Africa to Lesotho.

“The prime minister has always extended an olive branch to those residing in South Africa. That’s why he even went to an extent in June to advise SADC if they could help because he believes he has done all he could to make sure that he asks the opposition leaders to return home,” Ralejoe said.

But Samonyane Ntsekele, the secretary general of Lesotho’s main opposition party, the All Basotho Convention, said the government is not serious about introducing meaningful political reform.

“There are no reforms. It’s only a game that the country is playing. That is why the spokesman for the government cannot tell you anything. But they will say they are doing something. Even for the investigation of the death of former commander Maaparankoe Mahao, what the government reported is that now they have started forming a team of the police and the army to investigate the death of Mahao,” he said.

Ntsekele urged SADC leaders to make the government investigate political murders and facilitate the return of exiled opposition leaders.

“At this stage we think the government of Lesotho should listen to SADC with the recommendation that the present commander should be removed; there should be investigation into the Mahao’s death; all the officers in the army who are suspected of wrongdoing should be suspended while investigations are being done, and all the deaths which have happened so far should be investigated. So we really wish SADC can force Lesotho or urge Lesotho to comply which will save the country into the proposed reforms,” he said.

He said the opposition is not in favor of the blanket amnesty, which the government has been pushing.

By VOA News

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