The evolving security crisis in Lesotho reflects a deeply-rooted conflict requiring a robust mix of political, civilian, security and intelligence interventions.
In the recent months, the new coalition government has activated crisis management instruments to work through polarised institutions while simultaneously moving cautiously to manage a complex state of affairs that could easily degenerate into a more problematic situation. Actions aiming to re-establish the integrity of leadership in entities such as the Police, the National Security Service and the Army, alongside dealing with a wave of crime, viewed by some political analysts as ploys to resist an end of a violent era, escalated the security situation.
A statement released by Amnesty International last Tuesday, calling for the coalition government to demonstrate a clear break from the past to ensure accountability for past human rights violations, shows that human rights protection and promotion are an essential pillar for good governance, democracy and sustainable development.
It is a fact that suppression of rights and injustice are root causes of instability, but it is also a fact that the security crisis that has bedevilled Lesotho started a few months before a coup attempt in August 2014.
The new coalition government came to power in June 2017, at a time when Lesotho had gone through two difficult years characterised by a culture of impunity.
That Basotho settled for a third election in a period of five years is a strong indication of how they were unhappy with the quality of governance and in particular, the then government’s reluctance and uncalculated statements on selective implementation of the SADC recommendations.
It is our view that the current Thomas Thabane-led coalition government has ignited a ray of hope to many Basotho, who now have confidence that Lesotho is returning to a rule of law abiding governance system that is accountable to laws, which they will enforce consistent with international human rights norms and standards.
There are many reasons why the government cannot ‘quickly’ achieve this alone.
The quest to return to good governance has come at a high cost, including loss of lives. In the past three months, brazen killings have become widespread, leading to the conflict delicately flipping dangerously. Without clear understanding of this multi-faced conflict, as alluded to by some retired army officers here in Lesotho, blame will unnecessarily be apportioned in wrong places while enemies of human rights, justice and sustainable development strengthen their fort.
We strongly believe that lessons from past conflicts in Lesotho can help shape robust conflict resolution and transformative processes.
It is our understanding that the present government has not forgotten the military’s history of violence. The current Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Monyane Moleleki was one of the four ministers held hostage by the military in 1994. He understands the need to strengthen professionalism and instil discipline in the army.
Implementing the SADC recommendations is critical but also, the crisis in Lesotho continues to yield unpleasant surprises showing how it is evolving. Therefore, it is our view that interventions should go beyond SADC recommendations.
A lot happened in the previous government, at a time when the SADC recommendations were supposed to be implemented. Prolonged delays created a monster and as many secret plots and divisive operations come to light, the government has found itself with a lot on its hands. Only with real support, in terms of solutions and ideas, can the government create a conducive environment that will allow the restoration of Lesotho’s human rights reputation.