‘Lesotho politicians thrive on conflict’

 

  • Report recommends establishment of peace architecture

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – An assessment commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has revealed how Lesotho’s political elite has completely failed to deal with intractable conflicts and political instability because they seem to benefit from the status quo.

The solutions to these problems, that everyone has been aware of for many years, have been available but “have not necessarily been met with zeal by the political elite”, according to the UNDP report: Understanding Conflict, Peace and Gender Context in Lesotho.

The UNDP assessment concluded that Lesotho’s history of long conflicts and political instability has now reached levels that make it difficult for processes such as national reforms to be sufficient to guarantee peace and sustainable peace.

“The findings have revealed that politicisation of everything that constitutes the state has not only crippled the country but has inculcated deep mistrust among people and political organisations,” read the UNDP report published yesterday.

According to the report, the intractable conflicts and instability have hampered the delivery of services and led to disillusionment among citizens.

Under circumstances of poverty exacerbated by Covid-19, it revealed that some people have resorted to violence and crime putting social cohesion under strain.

The report read: “Yet external peacebuilding interventions have not necessarily been met with zeal by the political elite who seem to benefit from the status quo. Therefore, several challenges remain a threat to the peacebuilding process in Lesotho.”

UNDP said it commissioned the assessment on conflict, peace and gender context in Lesotho to contribute to knowledge building and operational learning about conflict prevention and management.

“Findings contained in this report and analysis thereof do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the UNDP or other UN agencies in Lesotho. The author takes full responsibility for the report,” it said.

The report five listed challenges that it said remained a threat to the peacebuilding process in Lesotho.

Firstly, it said, while several local, regional, continental, and international measures have helped to reduce political tensions and kept violent confrontations in abeyance, the absence of substantive peace architecture remains a problem.

It said this deficit also made the creation of a peacebuilding knowledge base that is critical in establishing lessons and harmonisation efforts difficult.

“Secondly, the social inequalities leading to marginalization of women, youth, children, and people with disabilities (PWDs) have a negative effect in social cohesion and peacebuilding at local and national levels,” it read.

“Thirdly, unemployment, nepotism and rampant corruption remain constant social ills that undermine peacebuilding efforts and give rise to criminality, labour migration mainly to South Africa,” it added.

The fourth challenge was delays in undertaking the national reform programme meant that state institutions that have been at the centre of Lesotho’s political instability remain unreformed and therefore, a threat to the peacebuilding agenda.

Fifth, it said, was inadequate technical, human, and financial capacity building of civil society organisations (CSOs) and faith-based organisations (FBOs) undermined their ability to be responsive to the demands on them to contribute to peacebuilding.

The report recommended that there was need to review Lesotho’s political system.

“Given the country’s historical past that keeps coming back to haunt it, there is a need to implement transitional justice to ensure that the past legacies are tackled once and for all,” it read.

It also recommended that governance institutions be redefined and empowered through the national reforms process and emphasized that special attention must be paid to the separation of powers to ensure accountability at the rule of law.

The report further recommended that the legal framework governing formation of political parties and coalitions must be urgently reviewed to ensure that it shapes the party system and ensure accountability of political parties.

“The mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) electoral system needs to be reviewed through the electoral reform process to ensure that it serves to regulate the proliferation of parties and facilitates the formation of stable government,” it reads.

In December last year, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) claimed that political parties owed the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) more than M4 million in campaigns and party agents funds they could not account for.

TRC said it conducted its own investigation which found that a significant number of political parties were failing dismally to comply with the electoral law and wrote a letter to the Chairperson of IEC asking the commission to go after parties that owe it.

The UNDP report further recommended that Lesotho needed to establish a comprehensive national peace architecture (NPA) that will respond to the unique context of Lesotho.

The report stated that this would also ensure a systematic approach to peacebuilding and create a scope for local solutions for Lesotho instead of the current over-reliance on external interventions and support.

“The external support to peacebuilding initiatives must be closely coordinated to improve their effectiveness,” it read.

It added that: “In addition, in the absence of the national peace architecture, multi-stakeholder technical meetings including CSOs, FBOs, traditional leaders and media must be held ahead of the external interventions such as the SADC-led mediation to ensure broader consultation and ownership.”

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