Odinga to head AU Observer Mission to Lesotho elections
THE African Union (AU) has appointed Kenya’s former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, to lead its Observer Mission to Lesotho’s forthcoming general elections.
Mr Odinga, who was Prime Minister from 17 April 2008 to 9 April 2013, is expected to arrive in Lesotho on 20 February 2015 and remain in the country until 3 March.
The continental bloc developed a set of instruments providing benchmarks for the conducting of democratic elections. It recognises democratic elections as elections that comply with these standards: conducted regularly in a free and fair manner, under democratic constitutions, within a system of separation of powers and by impartial, well-funded election management bodies.
Among other roles, the Observer Mission gathers information to make an informed judgement of elections and intervenes if relevant laws or standard procedures are being violated or ignored.
The mission’s mandate also includes third-party intervention in electoral disputes in a bid to find mutually acceptable outcomes. It also entails technical assistance and advice to the electoral commissions.
Added to that, the mission also certifies the validity of the steps in election processes either prior to or after the election has taken place.
Lesotho goes to the polls on 28 February after the All Basotho Convention ( ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) coalition government, which came to power in June 2012 for a five-year term, collapsed late last year.
Lesotho had been politically unstable since Prime Minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, and LCD leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, fell-out (SADC).
Under the Declaration, Parliament was to open on 17 October and dissolved on 5 December and snap elections held on 28 February 2015. Initially, Lesotho was supposed to hold its general election in 2017 but after the breakdown of relations between Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing, SADC brokered the MFD through South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in an effort to defuse the increasingly volatile situation.
Meanwhile, a six-member delegation of the AU Observer Mission arrived in Maseru on Sunday. During its stay in Lesotho, the mission will also meet various stakeholders to the elections in the country.
“In accordance with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, under the protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) has sent a Goodwill and Pre-deployment Assessment Mission to Lesotho to ascertain the preparedness and readiness of the country for holding the forthcoming elections,” read a statement issued on Monday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations.
“The SEAC Mission precedes the SADC Electoral Observation Mission which will be in Lesotho from 13 February, 2015 to 04 March, 2015.
“The SEAC Mission, which arrived yesterday on Sunday 1 February, 2015, will be in Lesotho until the 6 February, 2015 and comprises two retired judges and a member of the SADC Secretariat namely, Justice John Tendwa from the Republic of Tanzania, Justice Esme Chombo from the Republic of Malawi and Mr Elija Munyuki, a Technical Officer from the SADC Secretariat.
“During its stay in Lesotho, the SEAC Mission will meet with various stakeholders including the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Attorney General, relevant Ministers, the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Christian Council of Lesotho, Political Parties, Non-governmental Organisations and the Media.
“The Mission will also pay courtesy call on His Majesty King Letsie III and The Right Honourable the Prime Minister
On his part, Mr Ramaphosa has welcomed the deployment of the Electoral Advisory Council, noting in a statement: “The arrival of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council will add impetus to current preparations and efforts by the Lesotho Electoral Commission to deliver credible, free and fair elections in which the people of Lesotho can express their democratic will as part of efforts to restore peace and stability in their country.”
Kenya’s former Prime Minister and opposition leader Raila Odinga.