Opposition speaks out on MCC decision

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RCL Deputy Leader Motloheloa Phooko

RCL Deputy Leader Motloheloa Phooko

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 Lesotho 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 violation 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.

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