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US expresses concern over police brutality in Lesotho

  • Warns the country may lose billions

THUSO MOSABALA

United States has warned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s administration of the risks of losing multi-billion grants due to the country’s failure to respect and protect political rights as reports of police brutality escalate.

Speaking at the signing of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact Development Grant Agreement worth M81 million (USD$5.78 million) at Finance House today, US Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales, flanked by Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, did not mince her words as she said it was crucial that more hard work needed to be done, “before we actually sign a compact between Lesotho and the United States”.

The signed Compact Development Grant Agreement makes funds available to the government of Lesotho to further develop a development program, designed to reduce poverty and spur economic growth in the country.

MCC was created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004 with a strong bipartisan support and the agency provides five-year grants and assistance to selected countries that meet rigorous standards of good governance, from fighting corruption and respecting democratic rights.  

US Ambassador Rebecca Gonazales

It is in light of these conditions for eligibility to access the multi-billion MCC grants that Gonzales expressed her “deep concerns” about the “alarming reports of corruption and police brutality”, a behaviour that she vehemently said is “unacceptable and non-negotiable”.

Gonzales continued that the police brutality concern “is an enormous a concern for Lesotho as it is for the United States”.

“One of the things that we have is the MCC Scorecard, which has a number of sections in it, where we assess over a period of several years certain categories such as corruption or political rights.

“So as I said, police brutality is non-negotiable and it is something that we will look at and monitor constantly on the score card.

“Violation of political rights and corrupt activities are not negotiable and can stop compact planning development,” she reiterated.

Buttressing Gonzales sentiments, the MCC country director Guyslain Ngeleza emphasised the need for the country to respect political rights.

Ngeleza said respecting political and civil rights is important to the compact eligibility as well as to Basotho.

“This signing of a grant will help the preparation of a compact, and we are still in the progress while at the same time we monitor.

“These are requirements for continued compact eligibility and we hope government will take action before we get to a point of a final decision”.

Prime Minister Thabane’s four parties’ coalition government has, since taking over office, been under spotlight and criticised by opposition parties, civil society organisations, the clergy and the general public for failure to curb police brutality.

The failure, by government, to punish perpetrators of police brutality has been seen by the critiques as the promotion of a culture of impunity within the police service.

In defence, Minister Majoro said government is committed to ending police brutality and bringing to book its perpetrators.

Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro

Majoro, speaking alongside US Ambassador at the signing, said the Thabane administration “election campaign going back to 2015 was on protecting this nation against such acts as of police brutality.

“It is deeply disappointing for us, that there have been events in the past that seem to be in variance with what we campaigned for”.

He further said that “at least on two occasions Prime Minister Thabane condemned police brutality as unacceptable.

Majoro further said Thabane had instituted an inquest to get to the root causes what is really going on and to ensure perpetrators of brutality are held accountable.

“This is not only a compact issue but it is in fact aberration and a violation of human rights that is not acceptable to us apart from what the compact demands.

“We are accountable to people that have elected us, people who sought peace and gave us their taxes in return for protection so this kind of things should not happen again.

“There is no need for them to take longer than necessary; we need to bring perpetrators to book,” he added.

Majoro concluded that he is not oblivious of the fact that all the jobs promised by the multi-billion MCC grants could be gone or delayed if this issue is not addressed, adding that, “it would be stupid to lose this because of acts that are not consistent with what we stand for”.

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