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UN Supports Comprehensive Reform Process in Lesotho

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By Ntsoaki Nkoe

MASERU (IDN) – Lesotho has launched a landmark project with the European Union willing to provide Euros 12.5 million (approx. USD14.4 million) and the United Nations USD 2 million. Known as the Lesotho National Dialogue and Stabilization Project (LNDSP), the initiative aims to stimulate a comprehensive national reforms process the southern African country is undertaking.

Explaining the genesis of the project, UN Resident Coordinator Salvator Niyonzima said the launch of the project was the result of several months of consultations, project formulation and fund raising going back to September 2017 when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane wrote to the UN Secretary-General requesting UN support to Lesotho’s long-anticipated national reforms.

The United Nations responded to Lesotho’s request by making available a team of experts who consulted stakeholders and supported the government to develop a reforms document titled The Lesotho we want: Dialogue and Reforms for National Transformation – Vision, Overview and Roadmap.

After the Lesotho Cabinet and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) endorsed the document, the UN Peace Building Fund (PBF) was approached as the potential source of funding from the United Nations.

While the UN worked closely with an inter-ministerial Technical Team, the SADC made a strong case for PBF’s support to Lesotho national dialogue and reforms as an important contribution to crisis prevention. And this, despite the fact that, said the UN Resident Coordinator, “Lesotho is not by any measure, a post-conflict country and is therefore not an obvious candidate for PBF funding.”

This is all the more reason Niyonzima appreciates the PBF team’s “positive disposition towards Lesotho and recognition of the potential for the long-term stabilization through dialogue and reforms.”

For many years, SADC has been a major actor in Lesotho’s peace and stability. On behalf of the UN, Niyonzima therefore warmly commends SADC’s support to Lesotho and looks forward to a fruitful collaboration in this project. He says the project looks forward to interfacing with the SADC facilitation efforts especially in supporting the national dialogue.

During the launch of LNDSP on June 25, 2018, Geoge Wachira, Head of Governance and Peace Building Unit, stated that the project follows up on the various recommendations on reforms and implementations.

He said the project is purported to facilitate consensus-building and catalyse a conducive environment for inclusive and comprehensive national reforms in Lesotho. Wachira said the project’s overall outcome is to unite Lesotho with a commitment to implement political reforms aimed at addressing the causes of recurrent crises and building sustainable peace and stability in the country.

“The project has some specific outcomes; by 2019 there will be a national agreement on the content and processes of comprehensive political reforms and national reconciliation in Lesotho with participation of the public and donors,” he said.

“The project will lead to a more united Lesotho with a commitment to identify and implement a raft of proposed political and other reforms aimed at addressing the causes of recurrent crises and building of sustainable peace and stability in the country,” Wachira said.

According to the EU Ambassador to Lesotho, Dr Christian Manahl, the European Union has earmarked funds to support reform programmes in the Kingdom of Lesotho. However, the allocation “is contingent on a transparent, inclusive, participatory and comprehensive reforms dialogue taking place”.

It is at this reforms dialogue that the stakeholders will decide what actions need to be taken; the funds can only be mobilized then, the EU diplomat adds. The EU is currently supporting civil service reforms by aiming to improve public finance management and the Bureau of Statistics, says Manahal.

Everybody in Lesotho talks about the reforms. It is the responsibility of every Mosotho (a member of the Basotho people, the citizens of Lesotho), therefore, to ensure that reforms program becomes a success. Manahl appeals to the Basotho to follow in the footsteps of their founder King Moshoeshoe I and at the same time learn from the experience of the EU.

“Perhaps the time has come to put distrust and enmity behind you and to move away from assassinations. With a bit of imagination, you will find something useful for every letter of the alphabet that could define a brighter future for Lesotho,” he says.

Lesotho’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Lesego Makgothi accentuated at the launch of LNDSP, expected to run for 18 months, that the project is designed to facilitate the process of consensus building and to provide a conducive environment for the smooth implementation of the national reforms. “We are living in an unstable country and we have no peace and stability,” Makgothi said.

Makgothi was among Lesotho government ministers and senior civil servants, opposition leaders, international development partners, heads of UN agencies resident in the country, and the project’s implementing partners who attended the launch. They included the Lesotho government, SADC, UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Women, Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) and Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (LCN).

The Minister of Foreign Affairs insisted that there is need to stand up and rectify the mistakes that had led Lesotho where it is today, “and the reforms are the means that can help us to be where we want to be”.

He said their pledge to the UN is an affirmation of commitment of parties to play an important role in ensuring that Lesotho attains its rightful place among a comity of nations.

Makgothi was apparently referring to what happened on June 25, 2015 when the former commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao was fatally shot by his juniors on the outskirts of Maseru.

The then government of Lesotho led by Pakalitha Mosisili invited SADC to investigate the circumstances that had led to the assassination of Lt. Gen Mahao. SADC established a commission of inquiry which was headed by a Botswana retired judge, Justice Mpapi Phumaphe.

It is this commission that encouraged the Lesotho government to go for reforms in the security sector as well.

Makgothi said King Letsie III had during the official opening of the Tenth Parliament in July 2017 emphasized that the implementation of the national reforms must be a priority for all Basotho in order for Lesotho to realize sustainable peace and stability,

He recalled that Prime Minister Thabane during his inauguration speech on June 16, 2017, had reiterated this commitment and that of the coalition government to prioritize the national reforms during the tenure of office of the current regime. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 August 2018]

Photo: Uniformed children in class in Ha Nqabeni primary school, Lesotho. CC BY-SA 2.0

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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