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Regional solidarity key to political reform process in Lesotho

On 29 August 2019, IPSS and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho in Ethiopia jointly organized a briefing session on the opportunities and challenges of the peace process in Lesotho. The event attracted more than 40 participants comprised of the diplomatic community and peace and security experts.

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06 September 2019

On 29 August 2019, IPSS and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho in Ethiopia jointly organized a briefing session on the opportunities and challenges of the peace process in Lesotho. The event attracted more than 40 participants comprised of the diplomatic community and peace and security experts. 

 

The three discussants were Ambassador Professor Mafa Sejanamane, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Lesotho to Ethiopia; Tigist Kebede, a researcher at IPSS; and Manthatisi Margaret Machepa, a member of the African Union’s FemWise network. The briefing session was moderated by Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme at IPSS.

 

In his opening remarks, Amb. Sejanamane commended the IPSS report on Lesotho, which describes the peace and security situation in Lesotho amid the ongoing political dynamics in the country. He shared that Lesotho had greatly benefited from the solidarity of SADC states to address its challenges.  

 

The 1993 and 1998 elections resulted in one party holding a majority of seats in parliament. Both elections were followed by claims of exclusion and fraud, as well as the eruption of conflict. After the 1998 elections, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) used troops from South African and Botswana to intervene and halt the chaos from escalating. SADC also suggested the adoption of electoral reforms to distribute political power more equitably. A compromise was reached to have a mixed member proportional model, ensuring that elected politicians got exactly the proportion of representation in parliament that they have on a national basis. However, there were two missing elements with this model: there was no threshold, which meant beyond a particular percentage you could not share the votes; and second, the Constitution stipulated the number of seats (120), which resulted in some seats being distributed to undeserving candidates.

 

Two leading political parties emerged after the 2015 elections, illustrating that the model was not the cause of instability if applied properly. Rather, most of the security challenges facing Lesotho were a result of disputes and targeted assassinations involving individuals from politics and military. In addition, extremely flexible floor-crossing rules in parliament further aggravated political infighting.

 

Manthatsi Margaret Machepa’s presentation emphasized the constitutional challenges in Lesotho, which cover four categories: the weak separation of powers, the politicization of civil servants, the frail economy, and political interference in the natural resources sector. She expressed her hopes for a smooth reform process that will tackle the floor-crossing issue and create stability to attract investment and promote development.

 

Tigist Feyissa  Kebede, the author of the Lesotho report, noted that the SADC involvement consisted of multiple conflict prevention tools, including: diplomatic interventions, mediation efforts, and the deployment an oversight committee and a standby force. Moreover, the regional body recommended constitutional, public and SSR reforms which underline the causes of instability in Lesotho.

 

In November 2018, Lesotho began the national dialogue process in line with implementing the reforms. There was also a field mission visit by the AU Peace and Security Council. “The government is no longer in the driving seat on the outcome of the reforms and in essence we are on a straightforward route to reform,” stated Amb. Sejanamane.

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