Three months after the release of the SADC report on Lesotho, Maseru is yet to implement the recommendations.
Realising that the SADC is quiet about the implementation of the report which was led by Botswana Judge Mphaphi Phumaphi, the United States of America (USA) has put pressure on Maseru to implement the recommendations. The US government has told Lesotho that its benefits for 2017 under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) would be based on progress in carrying out recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry.
Information gathered by this publication has revealed that the US is asking for removal of army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli “to restore Basotho’s trust in the Lesotho Defence Force”, suspension of soldiers suspected of crime while investigations are taking place and the safe return of opposition leaders who fled to South Africa in May last year claiming their lives were in danger from some LDF members. According to correspondence between Joshua Setipa, Minister of Trade and Industry, Co-operatives and Marketing, and United States trade representative, Ambassador Michael Froman, “during the eligibility review for 2016, the US government identified serious concerns about Lesotho’s adherence to certain of the AGOA criteria”.
During the process, Froman said the US government review committee noted there have been a number of cases of extrajudicial killings and violence, reportedly linked to military forces, for which there has been no apparent prosecution. “The US will also look into security sector reform process that seek to transform the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) [to be] fully subject to civilian control, respects rule of law, and enjoys the confidence of Basotho,” he noted. There is a concern for the treatment of the detained soldiers accused of mutiny last year which SADC Report has recommended for their release.
As pressure to Dr Phakalitha Mosisili led government the US government want to would also look into the humane treatment of all LDF personnel in custody and access for international organisations to verify the conditions of their detention in light of the SADC Inquiry findings of torture and abuse. Lesotho is one of the biggest beneficiaries of AGOA shooting from $129.5 million in 2001 to $447.6 million in 2004 before tapering off to an average of $330m to date. The growth was prompted by an upsurge in Chinese investments in the manufacturing sector, as AGOA makes it cheaper to export from Lesotho instead of China.
Lesotho is said to have managed to establish one of the largest textiles and garments manufacturing industries in sub Saharan Africa. It is the country’s biggest employer with an estimated amount of 40 000 jobs, mainly for female breadwinners. The country’s eligibility was in 2015 renewed with AGOA set to expire in 2025. However, the US which determines, annually, whether countries have met the requirements. Beneficiary status may therefore be granted, or withdrawn, at the discretion of the US president.