C’wealth underscores reforms path

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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

COMMONWEALTH of Nations Secretary-General (SG) Patricia Scotland says Lesotho will need to implement a raft of reforms to stabilise the country after the 3 June 2017 elections irrespective of which party forms government.

Ms Scotland was speaking to the Lesotho Times in Maseru this week following her visit to the Mountain Kingdom for a series of meetings with stakeholders in the political arena ahead of the upcoming polls.

The Commonwealth SG’s visit, which began on Monday and ends today, is also meant to reaffirm the 52-nation bloc’s support for the country’s political and electoral processes.

Lesotho is one of 52 mostly former British colonies or dependencies that are members of the intergovernmental Commonwealth of Nations united by shared values of democracy, free speech, human rights and the rule of law.

Ms Scotland said she was delighted to learn that “almost all the political parties” in Lesotho signed a pledge committing to deliver the reforms that the Commonwealth had advocated through a report by bloc’s Expert Adviser to Lesotho Dr Rajen Prasad.

Dr Prasad made the report after a 25-member delegation of Lesotho politicians, senior civil servants and civil society representatives visited New Zealand from 28 June to 5 July 2014 to study the country’s governance system.

Dr Prasad’s report suggested, among other issues, that Lesotho should depoliticise its civil service and undertake constitutional reforms.

Lesotho committed to the implementation of a raft of legal, political and security reforms that were recommended by the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) as part of efforts to ensure lasting peace and stability in the Kingdom.

The instability has often manifested in the premature collapse of governments, the latest being Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s seven-party coalition administration which succumbed to a no-confidence vote in parliament on 1 March 2017. The country is holding its elections, the third in just five years as none of the governments have managed to last the full five-year mandate.

Ms Scotland said they would support the reform process once the elections were over, “and indeed work with the international community to see how best we can support Lesotho to deliver on these issues”.

“What is very warming and satisfying is to know that irrespective of any political differences the parties may have, they have all agreed that the reforms process is something that they will commit to irrespective of who wins the elections,” she said.

“It is important to recognise that this is an iterative process. There is need for us to be steady when it comes to what the reforms actually mean. We have an agreement that the reforms should take place and I understand there is a desire to have an action plan and time table for when and how these reforms should be undertaken.

“I will be listening and talking to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and leaders of the opposition parties to hear what they have to say; are they willing and interested in this idea of a peace pledge going forward to guide us in the election process.”

Ms Scotland also appealed to Basotho “to concentrate on peace, good governance, the rule of law and how we can make sure the structure is right”.

“We know that there will always be differences in political views but that’s not what we are talking about,” she said.

“We are talking about the reform programme, respect, peace and being able to create environment where a good, peaceful election can take place and where everyone is satisfied at the end of the process that the process is one that they can endorse and support.”

She noted that Lesotho also sought assistance of the Commonwealth in 2012.

“There was an issue of whether the constitutional arrangements should be changed; if the first-past-the-post system should continue. As a result, the then secretary-general agreed that Dr Prasad should come and assist Lesotho to look at how the new structure should be made.

“And for that purpose, he undertook a lot of work with stakeholders in government and the opposition as to how this new structure should be put in place,” Ms Scotland said.

She said the Commonwealth secretariat had an observer mission for elections, adding, “Most countries ask for the secretary to come and observe their elections”.

Turning to other issues, she said the Commonwealth theme for 2017 centred on peace building and they launched the Peace in the Home campaign to deal with domestic violence.

“One in every three women in the world is affected by domestic violence. It is the greatest cause of morbidity in women and girls.

“There is a big cost of this on all our communities. So we have been working hard to gather the best practices across the Commonwealth countries so we could share with one another and reduce the likelihood of domestic violence affecting men, women and children because it affects all of us.”

She added that the campaign was very important because without peace in the home “it is very unlikely to have peace in our world”.

 

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