Op­po­si­tion says AU mis­sion ‘a suc­cess’

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

Mem­bers of the coun­try’s op­po­si­tion par­ties on sun­day protested out­side the African Union ( AU) sum­mit in south Africa to high­light Le­sotho’s “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion”.

The pro­tes­tors — who be­longed to the main op­po­si­tion All ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP and re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) — also sub­mit­ted a list of their griev­ances to the con­ti­nen­tal body they said needed to be ad­dressed as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Among the pro­tes­tors were BNP deputy leader Joang Mo­lapo, ABC spokesper­son Thabo Thakalekoala, sev­eral Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) as well as rank and file party sup­port­ers.

In their pe­ti­tion, the demon­stra­tors chron­i­cled a num­ber of in­ci­dents which they said showed Le­sotho’s democ­racy was now un­der threat, as well as the plight of their lead­ers who fled the coun­try last month fear­ing “as­sas­si­na­tion”.

Former Prime Min­is­ter and ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane, his BNP and RCL coun­ter­parts Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane and Keketso rantšo sought refuge in south Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May 2015 re­spec­tively, al­legedly af­ter be­ing alerted of a plot to kill them by rene­gade Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mem­bers.

The seven-party govern­ment led by Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili has since dis­missed the ac­cu­sa­tions and ap­pealed to the three lead­ers to re­turn home, while also guar­an­tee­ing their safety.

Mr Thakalekoala on Tues­day told the that the op­po­si­tion achieved its “mis­sion” by mak­ing the AU and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at large, take note of “what is hap­pen­ing in Le­sotho”.

“For the first time in the his­tory of this coun­try, the op­po­si­tion high­lighted its griev­ances in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent man­ner and I be­lieve that shows ma­tu­rity.

“It is about time peo­ple re­alised that Le­sotho is not an is­land and when the coun­try has prob­lems, there are re­gional bod­ies that can be ap­proached to re­solve such is­sues.

“As op­po­si­tion par­ties in this coun­try, we don’t be­lieve in vi­o­lent but peace­ful means to re­solve what­ever dif­fer­ences we might be hav­ing with the govern­ment, hence our de­ci­sion to go to sand­ton and demon­strate at AU sum­mit venue,” he said.

Mr Thakalekoala fur­ther said it was im­por­tant to em­pha­sise the op­po­si­tion’s “dis­ap­point­ment” in the south­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) me­di­a­tion ef­forts, which re­sulted in the pre­ma­ture de­par­ture of the ABC, BNP and Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) coali­tion govern­ment fol­low­ing the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tions.

south Africa’s Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril ramaphosa was the SADC fa­cil­i­ta­tor in the fall­out be­tween the gov­ern­ing par­ties, which cen­tred around LCD leader and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing’s per­sis­tently com­plaints that Dr Tha­bane was not con­sult­ing him when mak­ing cru­cial de­ci­sions with a bear­ing on good gov­er­nance.

The break­down in re­la­tions led to the sadc-bro­kered 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, and the in­stal­la­tion of a seven-party ad­min­is­tra­tion led by Dr Mo­sisili’s Demo­cratic Congress (DC), and also com­pris­ing the LCD, Pop­u­lar Front for Democ­racy , Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress, ba­sotho Congress Party, Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party and Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party.

“We ac­knowl­edge and thank Mr ramaphosa for bring­ing a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to Le­sotho but we are not happy that the is­sue of se­cu­rity has still not been re­solved, yet it was al­ways our key con­cern.

“We par­tic­u­larly re­fer to in­ci­dents of 30 Au­gust 2014, which saw LDF mem­bers at­tack­ing three po­lice sta­tions in Maseru, re­sult­ing in the death of a po­lice of­fi­cer.

“That is­sue re­mains un­re­solved to date, and we would want to see it in­ves­ti­gated and the per­pe­tra­tors brought be­fore the courts,” said Mr Thakalekoala.

The former premier’s spokesper­son warned con­tin­u­ing to ig­nore Le­sotho’s “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing” se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion would be a big mis­take by both the AU and SADC.

“There is no sta­bil­ity in the coun­try; the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated so much. In fact, to say it has de­te­ri­o­rated is an un­der­state­ment be­cause ac­tu­ally, se­cu­rity is non-ex­is­tent in our coun­try to­day.

“The LDF has grabbed power and wants to plunge the coun­try into a sit­u­a­tion of law­less­ness and an­ar­chy. We don’t see the govern­ment run­ning things in the coun­try as we speak; Le­sotho has ac­tu­ally been turned into a mil­i­tary state,” said Mr Thakalekoala.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Thakalekoala, the Le­sotho demon­stra­tion was “the largest” at the AU sum­mit and grabbed in­ter­na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion as ev­i­denced by the in­ter­views con­ducted dur­ing the protest with for­eign jour­nal­ists and mem­bers of dif­fer­ent Non-gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOS).

“We scored points by demon­strat­ing out­side the AU sum­mit, and it’s im­por­tant to note that we were the largest group of demon­stra­tors there that day.

“There were egyp­tians, Zim­bab­weans and so­ma­lis, as well as the eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers of south Africa. We were in­ter­viewed by the world me­dia and we told our story, and the fact that we be­came the cen­tre of at­ten­tion among the protest­ing groups means the jour­nal­ists wanted to hear what was hap­pen­ing in Le­sotho, and to us, that made the mis­sion a huge suc­cess.

“In ad­di­tion to the me­dia, there were sev­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tives of NGOS who spoke with us to find out ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing in Le­sotho.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Thakalekoala, sun­day’s protest re­sulted in the 53-mem­ber Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions de­cid­ing to send an en­voy to Le­sotho to find out the re­al­ity on the ground.

“The Com­mon­wealth mis­sion to this coun­try is partly a re­sult of our ef­forts be­cause we also wrote to the or­gan­i­sa­tion ex­press­ing our dis­ap­point­ment with the way this coun­try is be­ing run as far as se­cu­rity is con­cerned,” said Mr Thakalekoala.

Mean­while, the ABC, BNP and RCL pe­ti­tion sub­mit­ted to the AU sum­mit and ti­tled ‘se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho’ read in part: “We write this let­ter to in­form Your ex­cel­lences about the un­for­tu­nate events un­fold­ing in the King­dom of Le­sotho.

“These events, if left unat­tended and un­re­solved, may plunge the coun­try into the abyss.

“Our com­plaints about the sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho are sup­ported by sev­eral state­ments re­leased by civil so­ci­ety, church-lead­ers and in­ter­na­tional mis­sions res­i­dent in the coun­try. There are two key is­sues that we would humbly re­quest your di­rect at­ten­tion to; the first is the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion and the need to bring to book all the per­pe­tra­tors of the failed coup of 30 Au­gust 2014.

“As a re­sult of the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of se­cu­rity, three op­po­si­tion lead­ers were forced to flee the coun­try and seek refuge in the repub­lic of south Africa amid threats of as­sas­si­na­tion or­ches­trated by some mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force.

“A reign of ter­ror by the spe­cial Forces and Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives has spilled over into the main LDF force where sol­diers are be­ing ab­ducted and de­tained.”

The op­po­si­tion also al­leged in the pe­ti­tion that the LDF “se­nior com­mand” had “con­sis­tently and ar­ro­gantly” de­fied in­struc­tions of the Le­sotho High Court to re­lease the de­tained and ab­ducted sol­diers.

The pe­ti­tion con­tin­ues: “Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the de­tained and ab­ducted sol­diers have re­ceived death threats em­a­nat­ing from mem­bers of the LDF and many of the same lawyers are cur­rently in hid­ing.

“Mem­bers of the me­dia who cover such court cases also re­ceive death threats. De­tained sol­diers brought be­fore the courts of law come un­der the guard of heav­ily armed spe­cial Forces sol­diers with cov­ered faces.

“The sol­diers brought to court are bound in chains and leg irons; their lawyers are not al­lowed to con­fer and dis­cuss the cases with them.

“This dire se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has also con­trib­uted to the bru­tal and cold-blooded mur­der of more than 10 ba­sotho, in­clud­ing prom­i­nent busi­ness­man and a founder mem­ber of the ABC, Mr Thabiso Tsosane.

“A state close to an­ar­chy cur­rently reigns in Le­sotho where a clique of sol­diers runs amok, ter­rorises the pub­lic and sub­verts the rule of Law. This is a di­rect re­sult of the in­abil­ity and re­luc­tance on the part of the SADC fa­cil­i­ta­tor, Mr Cyril ramaphosa, to ad­dress the is­sue of se­cu­rity in Le­sotho.”

The pe­ti­tion­ers also high­lighted the failed coup and said they were “shocked” that govern­ment had not pur­sued the is­sue. We see the new govern­ment hon­our­ing those un­speak­able deeds by re­turn­ing the pre­vi­ously fired Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli to the LDF com­mand even though there is still a dark cloud of lead­ing the failed coup, hang­ing over his head.

“We are also dis­tressed to see that LDF per­son­nel who wit­nessed events of the failed coup are the ones who are presently be­ing ab­ducted and ar­rested un­der the pre­tence of a mutiny.

“This is be­ing done by the very same sol­diers who are prime sus­pects in the failed coup. There is a de­lib­er­ate and sys­tem­atic cover-up by the govern­ment and the LDF com­mand.

“It is worth not­ing that the sol­diers who are re­spon­si­ble for these ma­li­cious acts are also sus­pects in a se­ries of crimes in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to trea­son, mur­der, bomb­ings, tor­ture and at­tempted mur­der.

“We urge the African Union sum­mit to ur­gently deal with the Le­sotho sit­u­a­tion by send­ing a fact-find­ing mis­sion to Le­sotho; as­sist­ing the Le­sotho govern­ment to fa­cil­i­tate the re­moval of Lt Gen Kamoli from the com­mand of the LDF; en­cour­ag­ing the Le­sotho govern­ment to es­tab­lish a spe­cial tri­bunal to bring to jus­tice those re­spon­si­ble for the failed coup of 30 Au­gust 2014; en­cour­ag­ing the Le­sotho govern­ment to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of the ex­iled lead­ers and en­sure their safety.”

Op­po­si­tion party sup­port­ers picket out­side the AU sum­mit in south Africa on sun­day.

Op­po­si­tion Mps sup­port the demon­stra­tion in sand­ton, south Africa.

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