amnesty bill: in­clu­siv­ity key

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

THE Amnesty Bill of 2016 which seeks to grant mem­bers of the se­cu­rity sec­tor a blan­ket amnesty for of­fences com­mit­ted be­tween Jan­uary 2007 and De­cem­ber 2015 has be­come a talk­ing point in the coun­try’s body politic.

Pre­dictably, it has its sup­port­ers who laud it as a chance to wipe the slate clean and build sta­bil­ity in the coun­try. For Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili who mooted the bill in June this year, the idea of an amnesty is “quite at­trac­tive”, and it would ap­ply to sol­diers ac­cused of mutiny, mur­der, sedi­tion, acts of vi­o­lence, ma­li­cious dam­age to prop­erty, kid­nap­ping, de­ser­tion and other acts of trea­son.

How­ever, it has vo­cif­er­ous op­po­nents who be­lieve such an ac­tion can only send danger­ous sig­nals that im­punity is en­cour­aged as it will al­ways go un­pun­ished, es­pe­cially in view of the fact that this is not the first amnesty that has been de­clared over the course of the coun­try’s 50 years of in­de­pen­dence.

Some of the crit­ics of the bill which could be tabled in the Na­tional Assem­bly af­ter it re­con­venes on 11 Novem­ber this year in­clude At­tor­ney Tu­misang Mosotho who has said it seems to be cal­cu­lated to “deny Basotho their rights to ex­er­cise their civil rights”.

While it may sound a highly charged emo­tional state­ment, it does how­ever demon­strate the strong views that ex­ist at the other end of the spec­trum away from those of the govern­ment who are spon­sor­ing the bill.

It demon­strates the po­lar­is­ing ef­fect the bill is al­ready hav­ing in­stead of unit­ing the coun­try and con­tribut­ing to the search for last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity.

While we sup­port every ini­tia­tive aimed at an­chor­ing our beloved na­tion on the firm foun­da­tion of last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity, we strongly sup­port calls for greater in­clu­siv­ity in the craft­ing of the bill to en­sure the fi­nal prod­uct has wide ac­cept­abil­ity which is a nec­es­sary in­gre­di­ent for gen­uine rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

As pointed out by some an­a­lysts, the idea of amnesty like that in neigh­bour­ing South Africa in the mid-1990s is com­mend­able.

How­ever, if we are to draw our lessons from South Africa, it would be very clear that the amnesty was pre­ceded by a truth ex­er­cise in which amnesty was only granted to those who had con­fessed and ad­mit­ted their crimes. This also helped bring clo­sure to vic­tims as well.

Such lessons are im­por­tant and could be use­ful in our sit­u­a­tion es­pe­cially as the idea of amnesty is not new at all but time and again, peace and sta­bil­ity have re­mained elu­sive.

As noted by At­tor­ney Mosotho, the Gen­eral Amnesty Or­der of 1986 was de­clared 30 years ago for the pur­pose of grant­ing amnesty for po­lit­i­cal crimes com­mit­ted from 1970 to 1986.

Another amnesty was passed in 1987 by the Mil­i­tary regime to pro­tect sol­diers for acts com­mit­ted from Jan­uary 15, 1986 to Jan­uary 15 1988 and again in 1996, the coun­try passed the Par­dons Act 1996 that granted amnesty from Novem­ber 1 1993 to De­cem­ber 31 1995 for per­sons who were in un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of firearms and am­mu­ni­tion and to cer­tain per­sons who are li­able for crim­i­nal prose­cu­tion for cer­tain of­fences.

It could just end up be­ing a cy­cle of amnesties ben­e­fit­ting per­pe­tra­tors while achiev­ing noth­ing for the vic­tims and for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

We there­fore urge a more in­clu­sive ap­proach which would en­able points of di­ver­gence to be elim­i­nated or re­duced to man­age­able lev­els if the coun­try is to fi­nally find clo­sure and start on the road to gen­uine rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and ul­ti­mately peace and sta­bil­ity.

In the ab­sence of that, we will con­tinue in the cy­cle of re­crim­i­na­tions and en­gen­der the spirit of bit­ter­ness and vin­dic­tive­ness in those who feel hard done by laws that do not take into ac­count their griev­ances and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.