MASERU – Tempers flared at the National Stakeholders Consultation Forum with victims of human rights violations urging the government to withdraw the proposed National Peace and Unity Bill. The withdrawal, they said, would allow for a free and fair consultation by the National Reforms Authority (NRA). The NRA is holding a three-day consultation forum to come up with mechanisms towards national peace and unity but some of the victims argued that the exercise is futile when government already has National Peace and Unity Bill in place.
The victims had not been provided for in the consultation forum programme, but raised numerous points of order until they were given a chance to speak. They demanded withdrawal of the Bill when NRA continues to consult with victims and urged it to ensure that all victims are consulted. Mosebetsi Mapetla, who spoke on behalf of the victims, said while the NRA goes out to identify the rest of the victims, it should also outline why reconciliation and healing is necessary and publicly declare those who have been wronged and perpetrators.
When all is done, she said, politicians should be taken out of the process at all costs and that those identified to be perpetrators of human rights violations be hauled before the courts of law so that victims can then forgive while knowing what exactly happened.
She also said the perpetrators act on instructions of certain individuals who are never held to account and said it will be necessary to find the masterminds behind the violations and deal with them accordingly.
Slain army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao’s widow ’Mamphanya Mahao urged the NRA to ensure that decisions that will come out of the consultative forum are in line with the constitution and that they are endorsed by victims.
She also said it would be wise for NRA to have the two sides believed to have hurt each other so they can rekindle “because as it is, we are here as victims and we do not have the other side.” Mahao also said any peace mechanism suggested should be build according to the existing frameworks by either the African Union or the United Nations. The victims all said the consultative forum was their first meeting with the NRA but said they hold a view that there needs to be another suitable platform where victims are called to freely express their views.
They were also backed Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, who said he has established from the programme that NRA was determined that the proposed Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) pass as it is and that the authority is not ready to accommodate those with opposing views.
“I note that even speakers are from parties that have declared themselves to be supporting the proposed TJC or the Bill and you have selected them so the direction of the forum is pushed to where you want it. That is going to be problematic and will result in this exercise being futile,” Mofomobe said. He added “we are not going to be given lectures about people who already know the direction they want to take.”
Professer Ntoi Rapapa spoke on behalf of the Leader of Opposition, and said their party is in full support of the reconciliation or any peace mechanism as long as it covers acts committed from 1966 when Lesotho gained its independence. He also called for extension of the reforms period to allow the country to effectively implement the reforms but said parliamentary reforms be prioritised before 2022 elections.
For his part, NRA’s Chief Executive, Advocate Mafiroane Motanyane, called on those participating in the consultation to strive for peace and unity saying the constitutional amendments will not bring the unity and peace Basotho need but healing and reconciliation will speed up the reform process.
He said the peace architecture should not be imposed by NRA but the consultation should come up with the recommendation of the kind of the peace architecture the people want. He cited Section 3 (c) of the NRA Act which states that the objective of NRA is to promote stakeholder consensus on the national reforms and long term national stability, unity and reconciliation.
Section 8 (1) (i) of the Act also states that the Authority will recommend and formulate plans for structures for dialogue on national reforms for purposes of national peace-building and reconciliation. It is also said that Plenary II report has instructed NRA under constitutional reforms to draft a new chapter in the constitution on political conflicts in order to create a structure on conflict resolution.
In its concept note, the NRA says the consultations are meant to discuss and agree on the Transitional Justice mechanism that is suitable for the Lesotho context in line with Plenary II decisions and agree on the period and crimes to be covered as well as identify who victims are.
The consultations are also meant to agree on ways to guarantee success of the reforms as well as to engender consensus among Basotho on national reconciliation and afford victims a platform for engagement that will promote healing and reconciliation. The consultations end today.