By Thuso Mosabala
The European Union Ambassador to Lesotho Christian Manahl has fired another shot on the country’s coveted but stalled reforms process, this time calling for the opposition to stop nagging.
Speaking at the Transformation Resource Centre’s dialogue on security sector reform last week Thursday, His Excellency Manahl appealed to the opposition leaders to bring their concerns on table and stop making them preconditions for their participation, procrastinating the reforms process.
Manahl’s remarks come just a month after he observed Lesotho direction on reforms was all still “messy and confusing”.
Of most importance, Manahl had noted during Europe Day on May 8, perhaps it was time for the government and opposition to make a leap of faith, “and move from suspicion, distrust and resentment to a genuine, honest dialogue about how to overcome the divisions of the past and to work together for a better future, with the interests of the ordinary people in mind. That includes the victims of past violence who long for jobs, modern education and efficient healthcare; a life without fear and deprivation”.
Now, on Thursday Manahl observed it was almost a year since Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government took the reins following the June 3, 2017 election “and we are still waiting for the multi-stakeholder conference which was mentioned as a national priority in the pre-electoral commitment.”
Lesotho has until May 2019 to fully implement constitutional and security sector reforms after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gave government an ultimatum at the Double Troika Summit held in April in Luanda, Angola.
The opposition has, however, continued with threats to boycott the entire reforms process until “safe return” of their leaders in exile.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi fled the country last year alleging their lives were in danger, but the claim has been shot down by the government that insists Metsing fled to avoid prosecution for alleged corruption.
Manahl said: “I want to make a special appeal to the opposition on this occasion to say, bring all issues that are your concerns into the negotiations, bring them to the table, but don’t make them preconditions. Join the process.”
His Excellency noted it would very unfortunate of the opposition to put their demands ahead of the reforms.
“Any participant can bring any issues to the table in a dialogue like this; all concerns that you have. But there is a difference between making this issues preconditions and staying away from the process or saying these are the issues we want to have discussed, we are bringing into the dialogue,” Manahl said.
Speaking at the same event, Head of the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL), Matias Matondo, noted the SADC Double Troika heads of state and government had “expressed concern at the slow implementation of reforms and the national dialogue.”
Ambassador Matondo added the leaders also “urged all political parties and their leaders to take the national dialogue and the reforms process seriously.”
He urged the government and all relevant stakeholders to hold the national dialogue by June 2018 and report progress during the next SADC ordinary submit.
The opposition leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, has nonetheless remained defiant they would continue to boycott the process, saying they stood by their decision in an interview with MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism this week.
“We will not be part of the reform process if our demands are not met. The conditions that we have put in totality are not the issues that can be addressed in the reforms,” said Mokhothu, who is also deputy leader of the Democratic Congress (DC).
“If they can facilitate the safe return of exiled leaders and drop this issues that they are saying they are going to sue Mr Metsing for, then we have no problem joining the reform process,” he concluded.