An Alliance of Non-State-Actors in Lesotho has petitioned Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili complaining information black-out on efforts by government to normalise the situation in the country and to address human rights abuses.
This is how the petition reads:
“We, collective formation of academia, business, civil society organisations, labour, students and transport under the Alliance of Non-State-Actors whose representatives’ signatures appear below as citizens and voters in the Kingdom of Lesotho;
CONCERNED THAT; Lesotho is back on the SADC agenda and that government effort to normalise the situation are not communicated to the people thus making it difficult to hold it accountable on delivery;
FURTHER CONERNED THAT; Government does not value genuine and inclusive dialogue which is the better way of delivering Lesotho out of the current situation which is not conducive for the stability necessary for democratic governance and investment attraction and confidence;
NOTING WITH CONCERN THAT; Recent developments in the country in particular communication between His Majesty’s Government and Lesotho’s development partners on them;
REALISING; Possible implications of a letter written to the Minister of Trade and Industry by Mr. Michael Freeman, Executive President in the Office of the United States of America Trade Representative, which raises the following points among others: “That during the [AGOA] eligibility review … the United States Government identified serious concerns about the Government of Lesotho’s adherence to certain AGOA criteria…” Specifically, that “…the United States review committee noted that there have been a number of cases of extrajudicial killings and violence reportedly linked to Lesotho’s military forces for which there have been no apparent prosecutions, raising questions about Lesotho’s adherence to AGOA criteria relating to respect for human rights and the rule of law. There also appears to be credible reports of torture by Lesotho’s military forces for which no one has apparently been held accountable, raising further such questions”.
AWARE THAT: In recent months, Lesotho has lost (or has been warned of the possibility of losing) the support of some of our most important partners (e.g. EU budget support) because of government’s failure to meet agreed obligations relating to among others good governance; CONVINCED THAT: His Majesty’s Government’s failure to respond adequately and convincingly to the concerns noted and quoted above and move in the positive direction, as expected by her partners who are looking with keen interest, may prove detrimental to the country’s continued participation in AGOA;
DEEPLY CONCERNED THAT: The sluggish development of a broad-based roadmap for the implementation of SADC decisions as per SADC Double TROIKA request may on the one hand exacerbate the situation defined above as the Lesotho partner’s judgement on the commitment of government to correct things is based on its delivery on these decisions and on the subjects Lesotho to unnecessary suspension process that will have negative implications for the citizens;
WORRIED THAT If the government does not act with resolve to put things right and consequently in the worst case scenario Lesotho is disqualified from access to AGOA and suspended from SADC, below are possible consequences: (i) at least 40,000 jobs in the textile industry will be lost directly, the employer second to none in the country with such a high unemployment rate and devastating levels of poverty exacerbated by the poor harvest due to drought marked by hiking food and commodity prices and (ii) political significance in the regional and global political economy accruing from community of states in the form of SADC would be lost;
REALISING THAT Losing AGOA will have immediate negative consequences for: i) The workers employed by AGOA and EU dependent factories, ii) Families and dependents of these workers (an estimated additional 120, 000 people), iii) SMME operators who depend on them for custom on a regular basis (Baitšukuli) iv) Landlords from whom many of these worker rent accommodation, v) Transport operators who ferry these workers on a daily basis, vi) The national purse, which collects taxes from various transactions of these workers, vii) The country’s stability, as levels of unemployment burgeon and crime increases due to massive job losses;
BELIEVING THAT In the unfortunate yet likely scenario that Lesotho loses AGOA and isolated from the regional organisation, other development partners who are equally worried and concerned by the similar situation would have no reason to be stuck with us;
DETERMINED TO Avert this situation as representatives of various sectors of the public, with both the mandate and obligation to participate in, facilitate and support efforts to build a stable, secure and prosperous Lesotho do rise as responsible citizens in a democratic dispensation to demand from government recommitment to save the situation and
THEREFORE, DEMAND 1. That Government transparently and fully accounts to the nation what concrete progress has been achieved on the implementation of each of the recommendations found in the “SADC Commission of Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao” report (SADC Report), 2. Expedite implementation and devise clear and decent public communication strategy to periodically brief and update the nation on the progress. This shall be a total departure from the current situation where reckless statements are consistently made and claimed to be reflection of government by people who have no right whatsoever to speak on behalf of government and they are never stopped. This does not only deny Basotho their right to credible information from government but also antagonises other sectors of society under the false pretence; 3. True security sector reform that seeks to transform the Lesotho Defence Force into professional and cohesive institution that (a) is fully subject to civilian control, (b) respects the rule of law, and (c) enjoys the confidence of all Basotho. In fact, the same need has already been expressed in the Maseru Security Accord, Coalition Agreement and Report of SADC Facilitator to Lesotho. However, we hold a strong conviction that in the politically divided society like Lesotho, real reforms cannot be attained through the unilateral rather an all-inclusive participatory process; 4. That government takes urgent action to ensure that His Majesty’s Government, which you lead, addresses these concerns. Doing so will enable Minister Setipa to provide the assurances sought by the USA Trade Representative and forestall the possible negative consequences of a possible AGOA disqualification for Lesotho and avert prospects of SADC Double TROIKA initiating suspension for approval by the Summit of the country from SADC for non-compliance with its decisions; That government opens doors for civil society to make a contribution in the mediation efforts currently undertaken by Heads of Churches; and convene a National Dialogue for all stakeholders to pave way for durable reforms and stability in Lesotho.
This call is made on the basis of the role this sector has played in the previous similar situations which political leadership both in government and in opposition has witnessed. Finally, we expect to hear from you within a period not exceeding two weeks from this day (22nd May 2016)