Op­po­si­tion out­rage over US de­ci­sion

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntate

THE op­po­si­tion al­liance yes­ter­day called on Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili to “tread care­fully” when deal­ing with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

The al­liance spoke about the rea­sons given by the United States’ Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) last week when de­fer­ring a vote on Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for a se­cond five-year compact and the premier’s terse re­sponse to the an­nounce­ment.

The MCC Board said it “dis­cussed the fact that due to on-go­ing con­cerns over the rule of law and ac­count­abil­ity in the coun­try, and an ex­pected re­port from the South­ern Africa De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) on th­ese same is­sues, a vote on re­s­e­lec­tion would be pre­ma­ture at this time”.

The Board how­ever, said it “may re­visit its de­ci­sion over the course of 2016 as more in­for­ma­tion be­comes avail­able”. The MCC is an in­no­va­tive agency cre­ated by the US Congress in Jan­uary 2004 to re­duce global poverty through eco­nomic growth. The Cor­po­ra­tion pro­vides time-lim­ited grants and as­sis­tance to coun­tries that demon­strate a com­mit­ment to good gov­er­nance. Le­sotho re­ceived its first five-year MCC grant in July 2007. The $362.5 mil­lion 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.

Be­cause of the im­mense ben­e­fits Le­sotho reaped from the first grant, last week’s de­ci­sion by the MCC Board, has since be­come a ma­jor talk­ing point among Ba­sotho.

Ad­dress­ing a press

con­fer­ence in Maseru yes­ter­day, All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) sec­re­tary gen­eral Sa­monyane Nt­sekele, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Mo­lapo and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) deputy leader Mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko, said the MCC’S de­ci­sion was un­for­tu­nate but also sought to re­mind govern­ment about the need to re­spect the rule of law and ac­count­abil­ity.

Mr Nt­sekele told the me­dia briefing that the op­po­si­tion bloc on Mon­day this week met with US Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho, Matthew Har­ring­ton, to al­lay his fears over the coun­try’s gov­er­nance. The Le­sotho Times could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify this meet­ing by the time of go­ing to print last night.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Mr Nt­sekele, the am­bas­sador told the op­po­si­tion lead­ers that the govern­ment of Le- sotho had been given the ben­e­fit of doubt to ac­count for the 30 Au­gust 2014 in­ci­dents, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion of In­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions and the killing of for­mer army com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao by the mil­i­tary on 25 June this year. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Nt­sekele, the US am­bas­sador had said this was why the MCC Board only de­ferred its vote and did not can­cel Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity al­to­gether.

“This is why our govern­ment should be ac­count­able and make progress in ob­serv­ing the rule of law through its var­i­ous se­cu­rity agen­cies,” said Mr Nt­sekele.

On his part, Chief Mo­lapo said de­spite the huge suc­cess of the first compact which re­sulted in “the con­struc­tion of hun­dreds of clin­ics through­out the coun­try, the de­vel­op­ment of out­pa­tient fa­cil­i­ties at all the coun­try’s ma­jor hospi­tals as well as the con­struc­tion of nu­mer­ous wa­ter projects”, it ap­peared Le­sotho could lose the se­cond compact.

“Over the past months, the US has raised con­cern over the break­down of the rule of law, lack of ac­count­abil­ity and di­min­ish­ing civil­ian over­sight over the mil­i­tary,” he said.

“Con­cern about th­ese is­sues is not in­ter­fer­ence in Le­sotho’s do­mes­tic affairs. It is about re­mind­ing Le­sotho of its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and com­mit­ments as a demo­cratic state. As the op­po­si­tion, we are sad­dened by govern­ment’s fail­ure to live-up to demo­cratic prin­ci­ples en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion.”

Chief Mo­lapo said among is­sues that re­flect the coun­try’s “stark vi­ola- tion of hu­man rights” is the “on­go­ing il­le­gal de­ten­tion and tor­ture of sol­diers, the lack of ac­count­abil­ity for the coup events of 30 Au­gust 2014 and the re­fusal by govern­ment to re­ceive the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion Re­port on flimsy and de­lib­er­ate, man­u­fac­tured grounds”.

The op­po­si­tion also urged govern­ment to re­mem­ber the dire needs of Ba­sotho and em­brace the hand of friend­ship that the United States has al­ways of­fered to the peo­ple of Le­sotho.

“The gen­uine con­cerns be­ing raised by the US now should not drive a wedge be­tween our two coun­tries and peo­ple. In­stead, it should in­vite the Mo­sisili govern­ment to re­flect on its cur­rent poli­cies and re­turn the coun­try to a sit­u­a­tion where our friends can con­tinue to sup­port our de­vel­op­ment as­pi­ra­tions.

“As we move to­wards 2016 and a new year, the op­po­si­tion is sad­dened by op­por­tu­ni­ties lost in 2015,” said Chief Mo­lapo.

For his part, Dr Phooko said the ac­tions of the govern­ment, es­pe­cially the de­ci­sion to refuse to re­ceive the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion of In­quiry re­port into the death of Lt-gen Ma­hao be­cause of a pend­ing court case chal­leng­ing the probe’s le­git­i­macy, sug­gested that govern­ment could have been com­plicit in the events that led to the gen­eral’s shoot­ing. Dr Phooko also said since the 1998 political dis­tur­bances that left Maseru in ru­ins, the coun­try had strug­gled “a lot” to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment.

“The sce­nario we have to­day is sim­i­lar to the one we had in the past and it will cost us a lot as a coun­try as our con­tin­ued stay on the SADC agenda as an un­sta­ble coun­try would re­sult in the loss of for­eign in­vestors. No in­vestor will find Le­sotho ap­peal­ing if this sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues,” said Dr Phooko.

From left to right: ABC Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Sa­monyane Nt­sekele, BNP Deputy Leader Joang mo­lapo and RCL Deputy Leader mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko.

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