Southern Africa: All Hands On Deck As SADC Seeks Lasting Political Solution in Lesotho

The Southern African community is working tirelessly to ensure that stability is restored in the Kingdom of Lesotho, where political and security challenges are once again threatening peace in the region.

Speaking at the Lesotho Post Election Dialogue held in Maseru in October, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, stated that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is "invested as a region and as the people of Africa in the progress of the Kingdom" of Lesotho.

"We reiterate SADC's commitment to working with the Government and People of Lesotho in search of a lasting solution to the political and security challenges facing the country," Ramaphosa said during the meeting.

The dialogue, which was held under the auspices of the Lesotho Council of NGOs, was attended by representatives of Lesotho political parties, and traditional and religious leaders.

It provided a platform for discussing the complexities of the Lesotho electoral process; issues associated with securing national peace, political stability, reconciliation and transitional justice; pre-conditions for undertaking successful reforms, and key considerations in the process, structures and leadership that should accompany the reform process in the country.

The national dialogue is part of recommendations made by SADC in 2014 to the government of Lesotho to find a lasting solution to the political challenges in the kingdom.

As part of the recommendations, SADC called upon the government of Lesotho to develop and submit a roadmap on the implementation of SADC decisions with concrete, clear milestones, and deliverables and report progress before November 2017.

Ramaphosa, who is the SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, said the commitment by SADC to ensuring the restoration of peace and security in Lesotho is demonstrated by its decision to deploy an expanded Oversight Committee as well as a proposed Contingent Force.

The Oversight Committee will act as an early warning mechanism for the political situation in Lesotho. It will monitor and assist the kingdom in implementing SADC decisions.

Following a Double Troika Summit held in September, a SADC Technical Assessment Team was deployed to Lesotho to assess the security situation in the Kingdom and determine the requirements and prepare modalities for deploying the SADC Contingent Force by 1 November.

The Double Troika Summit decision followed the assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Khoantlhe Motšomotšo in September, a development that jeopardized the implementation of SADC decisions and further destabilized the security situation in the Kingdom.

SADC Technical Assessment Team held the consultative meetings with various Lesotho stakeholders in Maseru in September.

The stakeholders consulted included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ministry of Defence and National Security, LDF, Lesotho National Security Service, Lesotho Mounted Police Service, Christian Council of Lesotho, Lesotho Council of NGOs and representatives of opposition political parties.

At the end of the mission, the team prepared a detailed report with recommendations on the requirements and modalities for the deployment of the SADC Contingent Force comprising the military, police and civilian components.

Namibia became the first country to announce its contribution to the proposed SADC Contingency Force.

The Namibian government approved the deployment of 250 soldiers to Lesotho as part of a 1 200-strong SADC standby force.

SADC condemned the assassination of Motšomotšo, saying the incident could affect efforts to promote and find a lasting solution to the political situation in the country.

Motšomotšo was allegedly shot at his home by a group of soldiers who had recently been fired.

To avert the possibility of further deterioration of security in the country, SADC immediately deployed a ministerial fact-finding mission to Lesotho in September.

The mission was made up of the SADC chairperson President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Organ Troika Ministers as well as defence and security experts.

The fact-finding mission conducted an assessment of the security situation and held meetings with all key stakeholders in Lesotho in order to establish the circumstances behind the assassination and subsequently recommended an appropriate course of action.

One of the recommendations was the deployment of a Contingent Force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to the kingdom, which was approved by the Double Troika Summit that met on 15 September in South Africa.

The Troika summit approved an expanded mandate and composition of a total of 34 members of the Oversight Committee to include military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to be deployed to Lesotho for a period of one month.

The Troika has called for "an urgent need to assist the Kingdom in restoring law and order, and a peaceful environment conducive to among others, the implementation of SADC decisions specifically, Security Sector and Constitutional Reforms, as well as the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry."

In this regard, SADC said it will remain seized with the political situation in Lesotho and is committed to the process of ensuring a return to political stability in the country.

Lesotho has experienced recurring political instability since its independence in October 1966.

The latest political problems have seen the country holding three national elections during the past five years.

The elections were prompted by votes of no-confidence passed on the respective Prime Ministers by the Parliament.

Since the general elections of 2012, Lesotho has experienced some instability, including an alleged coup in 2014 that was allegedly triggered when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, facing a vote of no-confidence, suspended Parliament following challenges in the coalition government that he had formed two years earlier.

An election, which was initially scheduled for 2017, was advanced to 2015 and former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was elected premier.

However, the country slid back into a crisis when the Parliament passed a vote of no-confidence in Mosisili in February.

As per the constitution, King Letsie III called for an election on 3 June, which saw Thabane returning again as Prime Minister after forming a coalition of opposition parties.

The recent assassination of Motšomotšo adds a new twist to the Lesotho political saga, hence the latest push by SADC for a permanent solution to the problems in the Kingdom.

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