Civil society laments absence of local ‘experts’ on peace mission

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Billy Ntaote

Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations Executive Director, Seabata Motsamai, has lamented the absence of local “experts” in regional efforts to restore stability to the troubled kingdom.

Mr Motsamai told a press conference in Maseru on Monday the decision to exclude locals from the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s peace mission in Lesotho could have dire consequences for the country as it goes for snap elections on 28 February.

Mr Motsamai added locals had a better understanding of the country’s political dynamics and the situation on the ground, and would have enhanced Cyril Ramaphosa’s facilitation in returning Lesotho to stability.

“Civil society has not been included in the facilitation process in line with the request we submitted to the SADC summit held in Zimbabwe last year.

“We believe if civil society is not involved, then church-leaders must be part of Mr Ramaphosa’s mission.

“There is need to have someone with a deeper understanding of the local political environment in the facilitation, and that someone or organisation must be able to take any culprit to task in the absence of the SADC Facilitator,” said Mr Motsamai.

However, Mr Motsamai hailed the South African deputy president for achieving “at least 70 percent” of his mission since SADC asked him to mediate in the coalition government leaders’ dispute over the extent of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s powers.

“If we take stock of what Mr Ramaphosa has been here for, you will realise he was able to achieve about 70 percent of his mandate. He managed to have parliament re-opened (last October after it had been prorogued for nine months by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 10 June 2014), and also succeeded in sending Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Commissioner of Police Khothatso Tšooana on leave-of-absence (in November 2014 as a way of ending tension between the Lesotho Defence Force and Lesotho Mounted Police Service).

“However, we also need to emphasise that part of his mandate was to normalise relations between the army and police, but there is still tension between the two agencies. Also relations between the coalition government partners (Dr Thabane, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane) are still sour,” said Mr Motsamai.

“Again, only last week, we witnessed an unfortunate incident where Joang Molapo (Home Affairs Minister) clashed with Selibe Mochoboroane (fired Communications, Science and Technology Minister) over who was in charge at the Ministry of Communications. This incident, as you will recall, happened soon after Molapo had been appointed Acting Communications Minister. There was also a shootout in Maseru last weekend between LDF members, where an innocent bystander was shot dead.

“All this was further indication that we are yet to have the political and security stability we would want as we hold general elections later this month.

“If SADC’s facilitation efforts had been broader; if the mission had respected Basotho such as heads of churches, and not only have Ramaphosa, we believe it would have been more successful.

“Maybe church-leaders could have taken the warring government leaders for a retreat, and brought them together to openly talk about what they were disagreeing on.

“But the bottom line is there is need to ensure locals are part of the facilitation and this did not happen, hence the slow or limited pr

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