EUROPEAN Union Ambassador Michael Doyle’s remarks on the urgent need to implement the reforms agenda only serves to show that there will be no hiding place for whichever government will be installed in the aftermath of Lesotho’s snap elections next month.
Lesotho will hold elections on 3 June and as we report elsewhere in this edition, Dr Doyle has underscored the need for the in-coming government to ensure early implementation of reforms for the country to retain international funding for its development programmes.
Lesotho launched the national reform programme in 2016 as part of efforts to implement recommendations by the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry which called for constitutional, security and public service reforms to ensure peace, stability and development.
“While there may be breathing space at present for election campaigns, it will be imperative that, after elections, there will be early and steady progress with implementation of the reforms agenda,” Dr Doyle said this week.
“The EU wholeheartedly encourages Lesotho’s political parties, whether they are in or out of government, and other stakeholders to follow through with implementing commitments in the reform pledge and indeed with implementing all the remaining recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry,” Dr Doyle said.
And in saying this, Dr Doyle was only adding his voice to that of our other development partners, especially the United States government which has withheld funding, pending satisfactory progress on the implementation of reforms.
The EU’s call for the implementation of reforms follows a similar call last month by the US through its embassy spokesperson, Julie McKay.
The US resolved to defer voting on the country’s eligibility for the multi-million dollar compact grant from the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) last month.
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.
Lesotho was supposed to receive its second compact last year, but the MCC Board has repeatedly deferred the vote on the reselection of Lesotho for a second compact “until governance concerns have been addressed”.
Ms McKay, last month told the Lesotho Times that 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 Kamoli from the helm of the LDF last December.
The US also warned Lesotho to implement reforms or risk losing support through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which provides for duty-free entry of goods into the US from designated sub-Saharan African countries, including Lesotho, and applies to both textile and non-textile goods.
Lesotho’s textile and garment industry, which is anchored on AGOA, employs more than 40 000 people, in addition to other downstream sectors.
So it is clear that support for the country’s continued economic progress is predicated on the implementation of the reforms.
And it must be said that, it is not only the country but the government will also benefit from the reforms.
Achieving peace and stability will eliminate the root cause of the persistent collapse of governments which has seen the country hold three elections in five years.
In an atmosphere of peace and stability, the government of the day will benefit from the ability to go the full distance of a five year term and boost its chance of re-election.
If the politicians cannot do it for the country, they must at least do it for themselves when they are inaugurated after the elections.