MASERU – The United States Ambassador to Lesotho, Maria Brewer has said parliament’s failure to pass the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2022 does not have a direct and immediate impact on the prospects for the upcoming Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact.
“We hoped Parliament could pass the important reforms that would serve this nation into the future. The people of Lesotho would benefit from reforms to strengthen the rule of law, democracy and governance,” Brewer told Public Eye on Wednesday this week.
She said while the country’s governance infrastructure and commitment to democracy are regularly monitored by the US government and the MCC “this issue does not have a direct and immediate impact on the prospects for the upcoming MCC Compact”. America always emphasizes that its foreign policy priorities in Lesotho focus on achieving the development of a stable, prosperous and healthy country.
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, political instability and slow economic development have plagued Lesotho. The country’s recent political history is littered with fractious governing coalitions and the proliferation of political parties. Addressing the question of political and security instability in Lesotho has been on the agenda of each successive government for the past eight years or so.
This has been so after a recognition that Lesotho was by all indicators regressing as a result of never-ending instability, while its counterparts moved on. The multi-sectoral reforms were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the country to achieve durable stability. The reforms have largely been stalled by bickering among political players.
They suffered the latest blow earlier this month when the term of parliament ended without it passing the crucial 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2022, commonly known as Omnibus Bill. The Bill sought to arrest some of the long-standing constitutional problems which are believed to be the cause of the country’s lingering instability. They include the excessive powers of the prime minister, a judiciary that is controlled by the executive, politicised security agencies and a weak parliament, among a raft of others.
Parliament has now been dissolved and the date of the election announced. In a Legal Notice No 63 of 2022 dated July 19, the King proclaimed October 7, 2022, as the day on which general elections to elect new Members of Parliament (MPs), will be held. This means there is simply no time to undertake and complete the much-needed reforms, at least the important ones.
“Another opportunity to demonstrate democratic governance will soon take place – the upcoming national elections. I strongly encourage the government to ensure elections are fair, transparent, free from violence, and genuinely reflect the will of the people,” Brewer said. She indicated that holding fair and transparent elections will be a clear indication of Lesotho’s commitment to governance that will serve its citizens well. The conduct of free and fair elections, she further said, will build an even stronger foundation for the enduring partnership with the United States.
“I will add that, with regard to the recently released Trafficking in Persons report and Lesotho’s upgrade to Tier 2, this reflects Lesotho’s improved performance in taking steps to end modern-day slavery. “This progress also ensures that US development assistance programmes are not negatively impacted. It is certainly not the end of the story, however. Much work remains to be done, a message I have shared with my counterparts in government regularly,” she said.
Brewer also told Public Eye that America’s partnership with Lesotho rests on a rock-solid foundation of mutual respect and a common vision that Lesotho’s brighter future can be achieved through strong and sustainable democratic institutions, accountable and capable security services, the economic opportunities available to everyone, freedom from corruption, and a population free from devastating health challenges.
“These are the areas where our partnership continues to endure. As friends and partners, we will continue to encourage change where we believe it serves the interests of the citizens of Lesotho,” she said. Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro told the nation last week that the government was seriously considering recalling parliament to pass the Omnibus Bill before the date scheduled for national elections.
The question of whether parliament should be recalled has consumed the nation since the term of parliament expired after the King dissolved it on July 14. The Constitution states that if, after the dissolution of parliament and before the holding of a general election of members of the national assembly, the King is advised by the Council of State that, owing to a state of war or of a state of emergency in Lesotho, it is necessary to recall parliament, the King shall recall the parliament that has been dissolved.
Such recalled parliament, according to the Constitution, shall be deemed to be the parliament for the time being and the members of the dissolved parliament shall be deemed to be the members of the recalled parliament. Recalling of parliament does not stop elections from being held on the date proclaimed by the King. “… but the general election of members of the National Assembly shall proceed and the recalled Parliament shall, if not sooner dissolved, stand dissolved on the day immediately preceding the day fixed for such general election or, if more than one such day, the first of such days,” reads the constitution.