AU blasts Lesotho
But Police Minister Monyane Moleleki hits back at continental body
THE Africa Union (AU) has, in an uncharacteristic move, expressed outrage over what it describes as “the breakdown in the rule of law” in Lesotho.
However, the seven-party coalition government has hit back at the continental body, accusing it of undue interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.
The AU’S statement is seen as adding more pressure on the coalition government in light of similar pronouncements from the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) and international development partners including the European Union and the United States government.
The AU’S stance was prompted by the recent attack on the residence of National University of Lesotho Pro-vice Chancellor, Professor Mafa Sejanamane, a staunch critic of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s ruling coalition.
The AU, which has often faced accusations of being soft with member states and of being weak in redressing abuses on the continent, also urged the government to implement the recommendations of the SADC commission of inquiry into Lesotho’s instability.
In an uncharacteristically strongly worded statement, AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma condemned the 7 May 2016 attack on Professor Sejanamane’s Mazenod home, describing it as having “adverse effects” on the country’s democracy, peace and stability.
Although the outspoken academic and his family were unharmed, Dr Dlamini-zuma said she had learnt of the attack “with shock and dismay”, hence her concern about “the deteriorating state of human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism in the Kingdom of Lesotho”.
Dr Dlamini-zuma called on the government to ensure that the attack is thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to book.
The AU Commission chairperson also expressed support for SADC’S “concerted efforts” to help bring stability to Lesotho and called on the government to implement recommendations made by the regional bloc’s commission of Inquiry into the country’s security and political challenges.
“Following the Sadc-sponsored Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana, there was a ray of hope that Lesotho would restore constitutionalism and the rule of law,” Dr Dlamini-zuma’s said in the statement released this week.
“The Chairperson strongly urges the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho to urgently implement the recommendations of the Phumaphi report with a view to ensuring lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.”
Communications, Science and Technology Minister Khotso Letsatsi yesterday professed ignorance of the AU statement but said the police were investigating Professor Sejanamane’s attack.
“I have not seen the statement and so can’t comment on it. The only thing I can say is that police investigations into the case are in progress,” Mr Letsatsi said.
However, Police Minister Monyane Moleleki reacted angrily to the AU, saying Lesotho was “not a jungle” and did not deserve such a letter from the continental body.
“It is disappointing for Dr Dlamini-zuma to interfere in this case and allege that the rule of law is deteriorating in Lesotho,” Mr Moleleki said.
“There is crime in every country and that doesn’t mean there is instability in that country. It’s surprising that the AU is so interested in someone who was not even injured to the extent that it decided to issue such a statement.
“Who is this Sejanamane whose attack could be said to have caused instability and the deterioration of the rule of law in this country?”
Mr Moleleki said Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa had not even reported the attack during regular meetings between the police and sister security agencies, an indication that the matter was being treated like any other criminal case. He was therefore surprised by the AU’S intervention.
“I want everybody to be clear on this matter. It is not that the attack doesn’t need police investigation. It does, but people must understand it is not different from other criminal cases which have happened in Lesotho and it certainly isn’t worth the AU’S intervention.
“There have been cases in this country, such as the murder of former Deputy Prime Minister Selometsi Baholo by soldiers and this indeed attracted the international community but foreign organisations did not recommend the removal of the then army commander,” said Mr Moleleki in apparent reference to a SADC recommendation for the removal of army commander LieutenantGeneral Tlali Kamoli.
Mr Moleleki denied allegations that the AU statement had thrown the government into a frenzy, prompting it to call an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss its implications.
“I only had a regular security meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-general, Minister of Defence, Director of National Security Service, Lesotho Defence Force Commander and the Commissioner of Police.
“And like I said, that issue was never raised in that meeting,” the minister said.
Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi similarly denied meeting Mr Moleleki and security chiefs over the AU statement.
“I didn’t even see the statement you are talking about. And again, we don’t even know about the said attack on Professor Sejanamane’s house,” Mr Mokhosi said.
Professor Sejanamane told the Lesotho Times after the attack that he first heard two gunshots which were immediately followed by the noise of his home’sme’s shattering ring windowowpanes.
He said he foundund six stones, one inside the house and the rest outside by the broken two wo windows. He suspectsuspects the stones were among the “missiles” used by the unknown assailants in the attack.
The renowned academic said he suspected that the attack was connected to his critical analysis about Lesotho’s current political situation in both the print and electronic media.
But the defiant professor said he was “more determined than ever” to speak out against any injustices by the ruling coalition and never to be cowed into acquiescence.
“Nobody will stop me from doing my part in contributing to a democratic Lesotho,” he declared.
In its condemnation of the attack, the NUL Senate appealed for international assistance in bringing law and order to Lesotho.
“While it remains unclear who was behind the attack, and what their reasons were, it is difficult to separate the attack from other similar recent incidents in the country, and from the general breakdown of the rule of law in the country which has exposed citizens to unprecedented insecurity in recent months,” the NUL Senate said in a statement.
“The reigning lawlessness has engendered fertile ground for all forms of criminality, including unleashing those who want to sow fear and silence the nation through intimidation and aggression.
“Professor Sejanamane himself has publicly stated that he suspects the attack on his home was carried out by those who are opposed to his views, especially to his consistent call for the government to implement SADC directives on the political and secu- rity situation in the country.
“In this regard, Professor Sejanamane is certainly not alone to have earned the wrath of those who are determined to undermine the implementation of the SADC directives through intimidating the entire nation to submission, ” the NUL statement said.
The SADC inquiry, which was established after the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao by his military colleagues in June last year, made several recommendations aimed at restoring stability to Lesotho.
Among the recommendations is the dismissal of Lt-gen Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation”, and the suspension of all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into their cases were in progress.
The inquiry concluded that some of Lesotho’s political and security problems were due to the country’s constitution and encouraged constitutional reforms.
The “deficiencies and overlaps” in the constitution with regard to the mandates of security institutions needed to be looked into urgently “with a comprehensive strategy to reform them”, the inquiry said.
Deputy Prime Minister Methotjoa Metsing said the government was still studying the recommendations and would pronounce on their implementation in due course.
Civic groups last week demanded speedier implementation of the recommendations in a protest march and handed a petition outlining their demands to cabinet ministers.
POLICE Minister Monyane Moleleki
POLICE minister monyane moleleki.
AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma.