A three-member American delegation from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is in the country to meet with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili over a decision taken by its Board last month to defer a vote on presenting Lesotho with a new five-year Compact.
The MCC Board on 16 December 2015 indefinitely suspended funding to Lesotho citing the country’s poor governance.
Lesotho received its first five-year MCC grant or Compact 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.
The country was expecting its second Compact this year, but the Board decided not to vote on the issue because of governance concerns.
However, the Lesotho Times established that the MCC Department of Policy and Evaluation vice-president Beth Tritter arrived in Maseru on Tuesday this week alongside two other unnamed MCC officials. The three, together with United States Ambassador to Lesotho, Mathew Harrington, met with Dr Mosisili yesterday at his Government Complex offices.
Part of the delegation further met with Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla and Trade Minister Joshua Setipa, among other ministers, as well as members of the opposition.
Both ministers confirmed the meetings to the Lesotho Times but could not give details of the agenda.
Dr Khaketla said: “I am not in a position to tell you exactly what the MCC officials will be discussing with the prime minister. Actually, they are visitors to the prime minister. I only met with some of the delegates and not head of delegation (Ms Tritter). I am hoping that the prime minister will inform cabinet about this visit and the agenda tomorrow.”
Dr Khaketla, however, said she believed the visit had something to do with Board’s decision to suspend voting on a second Compact.
“I can only guess the delegation is here to explain last month’s decision on aid to Lesotho. Possibly, the discussions will be about the way forward, but I am just guessing,” she said.
On his part, Mr Setipa said he met the delegation yesterday morning. “I can only confirm that the delegation is here, but I am not in a position to tell you about other details.”
The Prime Minister’s press attaché, Motumi Ralejoe, also confirmed to the Lesotho Times the delegation had met with the premier. “They held closed discussions, which I can only say went well. The delegation was in the company of the United States Ambassador to Lesotho.”
Mr Ralejoe added the delegation further met with four more leaders of the seven parties forming the coalition government, and opposition party representatives.
Basotho National Party deputy leader Joang Molapo confirmed meeting the delegation at the US Embassy but also refused to give details.
“We met with the delegation this afternoon at the US Embassy as opposition representatives. The MCC delegation is here to meet with relevant stakeholders. I cannot go into details but all-in-all this is about working relations between America and Lesotho in far as the MCC funding is concerned,” Chief Molapo said.
Meanwhile, in a letter dated 15 June 2015 and addressed to Dr Khaketla, Ms Tritter noted the MCC partnership with Lesotho was established on “mutual commitment to good governance, which includes accountability and respect for the rule of law”.
Ms Tritter added she was concerned over events of August 2014, which saw Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members attacking Maseru Central Police Station, Mabote Police Station and Police Headquarters. Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was shot dead during the attack on Police Headquarters in what the army said was a special operation.
However, Dr Thomas Thabane, who was prime minister at the time, called the assaults an attempted coup, and accused Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli, whom he had fired as army commander the previous day, of orchestrating the botched putsch. Dr Thabane fled the country on the night of the attacks, and only returned a week later under the protection of the South African police.
Because of the instability which followed the 30 August 2014 events, Lesotho eventually went for an early election in February 2015, resulting in a new government led by Dr Mosisili. But the fatal shooting of former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015 outside Maseru by his fellow soldiers—allegedly as he resisted arrest for suspected mutiny—plunged Lesotho into turmoil and was condemned both at home and internationally.
Dr Thabane and his two opposition allies, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantso of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) respectively, had fled to South Africa the previous month claiming the army was out to assassinate them. The three leaders remain in exile in South Africa, alongside several members of their parties and the LDF. The killing of Lt-Gen Mahao and the opposition leaders’ flight prompted an investigation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) whose report has not yet been made public.
The arrest of 23 soldiers between May and June last year on mutiny charges, further put Lesotho under the spotlight, which the MCC alluded to when deferring Lesotho’s decision on funding. “The Board 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 on these same issues, a vote on reselection would be premature at this time. The Board may revisit its decision over the course of 2016 as more information becomes available,” the MCC Board noted.
Meanwhile, the MCC delegation is expected to hold a press conference in Maseru tomorrow, the Lesotho Times heard.