I’m also a victim of human rights: Mosisili
- former premier throws weight behind National Peace and Unity Bill,
- says Lesotho needs transitional justice commission to deal with rights violations.
FORMER Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has thrown his weight behind the controversial National Peace and Unity Bill which seeks to establish a National Peace and Unity Commission with powers to grant high-profile criminal suspects amnesty on condition they fully confess their crimes and show remorse.
Mr Mosisili is the founding leader of the Democratic Congress (DC) and current legislator for the Tsoelike constituency. His stance on the Bill is in line with that of his party which is now led by Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu. It is however, at odds with the DC’s coalition partner, the All Basotho Convention (ABC).
The ABC and some victims of human rights abuses have outrightly rejected the Bill on the grounds that it is aimed at saving the DC’s members and allies who have been implicated in various crimes from facing justice for their actions.
The ABC has even claimed that it was not consulted in the drafting of the Bill.
On the other hand, Mr Mokhothu, DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa and fellow congress politicians have all defended the Bill, saying the establishment of the National Peace and Unity Commission is a sure way to achieve, peace, reconciliation, unity and stability in the country.
Mr Mosisili, who had taken a backseat after handing over the baton to Mr Mokhothu in 2019, recently broke his silence over the contentious issue, saying the National Reforms Authority (NRA) must expedite the work of establishing the Commission. He said there was no need to reignite the debate on whether or not Lesotho should have a transitional justice commission as this had already been agreed on at the second plenary session of the national stakeholders’ forum on the national reforms in 2019.
A fortnight ago, the NRA organised a three-day forum to solicit views on “peacebuilding, national unity, national healing and reconciliation as well as how to balance justice and reconciliation”.
The forum also deliberated on transitional justice mechanisms that are suitable to the Lesotho context. It was engulfed in controversy from the very first day as slain army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao’s widow, ‘Mamphanya Mahao, and other victims of human rights atrocities disrupted the opening ceremony to vent their anger at the government for crafting the National Peace and Unity Bill without their input.
The victims vowed that they would do everything in their power to oppose the passage of the Bill in its current format as it had ignored their concerns. They also protested that the NRA had not given them a slot to air their concerns. Proceedings were allowed to resume after the victims were given a platform to air their grievances.
However, Mr Mosisili insists that the NRA must forge ahead with the task of ensuring the Commission is established as per the recommendations of the second plenary of the national stakeholders’ forum.
He said a transitional justice commission was necessary to achieve long-lasting peace and stability in the country.
“Among many other things, the second plenary says the NRA must establish an all-encompassing transitional justice commission suitable to Lesotho’s context to address human rights violations and injustices with a focus on reconciliation, peacebuilding, reparation, compensation without compromising justice,” Mr Mosisili said.
“This means the NRA is already mandated to establish the transitional justice commission and we therefore cannot come here (to the NRA-organised stakeholders’ forum) to give it a fresh mandate on the Commission. The nation, through Plenary II report, has already ordered the NRA to establish a transitional justice commission and NRA must realise this and stop hiding behind a rock when it comes to this issue. It must establish that Commission as per the order of the nation, captured in the Plenary II report.”
Mr Mosisili said achieving justice for all was important, adding almost every citizen, including himself, had been a victim of human rights abuses in the past.
“Truly speaking, here in Lesotho, if you honestly look around, there is no one who is not a victim. I was personally a victim.
“I can tell you that I first became a victim when I was a teenager, along with the likes of Ntate (former Chief Justice Mahapela) Lehohla and others in 1970 when we got arrested and incarcerated. We were young men who had made promises to our girlfriends outside of prison. This means I became a victim.
“I once again became a victim when I got arrested in 1994 by the army, along with Ntate (Kelebone) Maope, Ntate Shakhane (Mokhehle) and Ntate (Monyane) Moleleki. Every person can stand here and count the number of times they became victims, it will never end. All of us have become victims in different ways. The most important thing is that NRA has been mandated to establish a transitional justice mechanism or commission to deal with past injustices. For heaven’s sake, let the NRA go ahead with that mandate,” Mr Mosisili said.