Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

LE­SOTHO has been handed another chance to put its house in or­der after the United States of Amer­ica re­solved to de­fer vot­ing on the coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for the multi-mil­lion dol­lar com­pact grant from the United States Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC).

The MCC is a bi­lat­eral Amer­i­can for­eign aid agency es­tab­lished by the United States Congress in 2004, with coun­tries ex­pected to meet cer­tain con­di­tions on good gov­er­nance prac­tices and re­spect for the rule of law to qual­ify.

In 2007, the MCC and Le­sotho signed the first US$362.6 mil­lion (over M3 bil­lion) com­pact to re­duce poverty and spur eco­nomic growth.

The five-year com­pact among oth­ers, helped fund the con­struc­tion of Me­to­long Dam, as well as the Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gency Plan for AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR) to mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive eco­nomic im­pact of poor ma­ter­nal health, HIV/AIDS, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and other dis­eases.

Le­sotho was sup­posed to re­ceive its sec­ond com­pact last year, but on 16 De­cem­ber 2015, the MCC Board de­cided not to vote on the is­sue cit­ing gov­er­nance con­cerns, par­tic­u­larly after the killing of former army chief Ma­hao.

In De­cem­ber 2016, the MCC Board again de­ferred a vote on the re­s­e­lec­tion of Le­sotho for a sec­ond com­pact “un­til gov­er­nance con­cerns have been ad­dressed”. A deter­mi­na­tion on Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for a sec­ond MCC com­pact was sched­uled for last month.

US Em­bassy spokesper­son, Julie Mckay, yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times the vote was de­ferred by the MCC Board to a later date to as­sess progress in the ad­dress­ing of rule of law and gov­er­nance con­cerns.

She ac­knowl­edged the ef­forts the gov­ern­ment has made in ad­dress­ing some of their bench­marks in­clud­ing re­mov­ing Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli from the helm of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) last De­cem­ber.

“The United States wel­comes the change in the lead­er­ship of the army and the de­ci­sion to re­lease on open ar­rest the 23 mil­i­tary de­tainees ac­cused of mutiny,” Ms Mackay said.

“Fur­ther work is needed, how­ever, to en­sure there is a cul­ture of ac­count­abil­ity and rule of law in Le­sotho.”

The 23 sol­diers were ar­rested be­tween May and June 2015 for al­legedly plot­ting to vi­o­lently re­move the LDF com­mand. The sol­diers were sub­se­quently re­leased from Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison and placed un­der open ar­rest, which is a form of bail in the mil­i­tary.

And while wel­com­ing progress made thus far, Ms Mckay said fur­ther progress was re­quired on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of all of the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions, “in­clud­ing those re­lated to the killing of Gen­eral Ma­hao and the need for se­cu­rity sec­tor re­form”.

The former army com­man­der was shot dead as he left his Mokema farm on 25 June 2015 by sol­diers who said they had come to ar­rest him for lead­ing a plot to over­throw the LDF lead­er­ship. How­ever, the Ma­hao fam­ily has ac­cused the army of killing him in cold blood bas­ing on the ac­count of his neph­ews who were with him dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

After the killing, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili asked SADC to probe the in­ci­dent, with the in­quiry car­ry­ing out its in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015.

The Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi-led com­mis­sion made a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing the dis­missal of Lt-gen Kamoli, sus­pen­sion of LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son while in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­le­ga­tions pro­ceeded in line with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice.

She said the SADC rec­om­men­da­tions had to be fully im­ple­mented “re­gard­less of the out­come of Le­sotho’s up­com­ing elec­tion” sched­uled for 3 June.

“At its March 2017 meet­ing, the MCC Board re­viewed the re­cent de­vel­op­ments in Le­sotho, but did not vote on the el­i­gi­bil­ity of Le­sotho for a sec­ond MCC Com­pact.

“As in De­cem­ber 2015 and again in De­cem­ber 2016, the MCC Board de­ferred to a later date a vote on whether to re­s­e­lect Le­sotho as el­i­gi­ble pend­ing fur­ther progress on rule of law and gov­er­nance con­cerns. There­fore, no de­ci­sion has been made at this time about Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for a sec­ond MCC Com­pact,” Ms Mckay said.

Re­gard­ing the coun­try’s AGOA sta­tus, Ms Mckay said: “On De­cem­ber 16, former Pres­i­dent (Barack) Obama ap­proved the list of coun­tries el­i­gi­ble for the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) in 2017. Le­sotho was in­cluded on that list and there­fore re­mains AGOA el­i­gi­ble”.

She how­ever cau­tioned that the cur­rent AGOA leg­is­la­tion pro­vided the US ad­min­is­tra­tion greater flex­i­bil­ity in re­view­ing coun­tries on an on­go­ing ba­sis, in­clud­ing by ini­ti­at­ing “out-of-cy­cle” re­views at any point dur­ing the cal­en­dar year.

US Em­bassy spokesper­son Julie Mckay

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