The United States of America has weighed in on the standoff between Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Kingdom of Lesotho.
This follows reports that while he accepted the Phumaphi report from SADC Chairman President Ian Khama and agreed to release the report within the ordered 14-day ultimatum, a defiant Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili told that country’s media that his government would not be forced to publish all of the Commission’s recommendations.
In a press statement, a copy of which has been passed to Sunday Standard, Mosisili stated that the SADC recommendations were not legally binding.
SADC posted a statement on its website stating that the US Ambassador to the Republic of Botswana, Earl R. Miller, visited the SADC Secretariat on 20th January 2016, following the just concluded Double Troika Summit that discussed the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
There are even claims that SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax handed over a copy of the report to Miller, but Sunday Standard was unable to establish the veracity of such allegations.
According to the statement, Lawrence Tax informed Miller that, the Summit handed over the report of the SADC Commission of Inquiry to the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho for implementation and publication.
She further indicated that it had been agreed that the Kingdom of Lesotho would prepare a roadmap for the implementation of the Constitutional, Public Sector and Security Sector Reforms and submit a report to Summit in August 2016.
The US Ambassador commended SADC for continued efforts in the Kingdom of Lesotho, and for the outcomes of the Double Troika Summit. Dr. Tax thanked the US Ambassador for visiting SADC, and appreciated the contributions that the US government was making towards resolution of the political situation in Lesotho.
“Your visit immediately after the Summit is not only appreciated, but also a commendable gesture of partnership. SADC values contributions of the US government in the SADC Region”, she said.
Dr. Tax informed the US Ambassador that despite the challenges, SADC was committed to, and continues to work with the Kingdom of Lesotho to ensure that political normalcy is restored.
While Khama was instrumental in persuading Mosisili to reconsider his decision not to accept the Phumaphi report, the Lesotho leader is said to have received intelligence reports that US was threatening to join SADC in imposing sanctions against the mountain kingdom and to cut them out of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Veson-Moitoi told journalists in Gaborone this week that after the conclusion of the summit, President Khama met Mosisili and convinced him to accept the report.
“The Prime Minister Mosisili agreed to accept the report yesterday (Tuesday) and this changed the complexion of the situation. The Troika had earlier recommended either the exclusion or sanction of Lesotho on SADC activities after they refused the report on Monday,” she said.
According to Venson-Moitoi, Mosisili requested to be given time to digest the report with other stakeholders in the coalition government within 14 days. She said following Mosisili u-turn to accept the report, President Khama informed other members of the troika about the development who then appreciated it.
“If Lesotho didn’t accept the report, SADC was going to make it public but since they have changed their minds they will not make it public. On Monday during the SADC Double Troika Extra Ordinary Summit, all Heads of state agreed to recommend the suspension of Lesotho from SADC, said Venson-Moitoi.
She revealed that the reason SADC was unhappy with Lesotho’s position not to accept the report was because regional member states have invested a lot of money on the setting up of the Commission of inquiry and the General Elections for that country.
Despite threats by SADC and US, Mosisili remains defiant as he warned that Lesotho government would study the Phumaphi Commission “report and only implement those recommendations that can be implemented.”
He said they would also seek legal advice from the Attorney-General and in the event that the (AGs warns that some parts of the report should not be published as they put the state’s security at risk, we will not hesitate to expunge those recommendations and I so pray that that won’t happen.”
According to Mosisili he accepted the Phumaphi Commission report after his earlier stance never to do so pending the conclusion of the Hashatsi court case, Mosisili said “the only reason why we accepted the report was so as to compromise and meet one another halfway since SADC was starting to feel uncomfortable that the report had taken way too long in their hands after Phumaphi had handed it over, without passing it on to their rightful owners in this case the Lesotho Government.”
SADC appointed Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana to lead a team to investigate the assassination of former Lesotho Defence Force commander Maaparankoe Mahao by the army and political instability in that country.
According to Lesotho media, central to Phumaphi Commission report is its condemnation of the reinstatement of Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli to the command of the LDF as the main source of the problems in Lesotho and its recommendation that he be removed from that post to facilitate national reconciliation. It is understood that this one of the reasons why Lesotho initially refused to accept the report.