By employing a hardline stance against development partners “interfering in Lesotho’s domestic affairs”, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is “only misdirecting himself”, analysts say.
The pundits told the Sunday Express that if Dr Mosisili and his government stick to their “non-interference” stance and continue to criticise opinions raised by development partners on issues such as the apparent deteriorating security situation in the country, Lesotho risks losing foreign aid, the bulk of which comes from America.
Last month the United States of America Department of State released a strongly- worded statement complaining about the reinstatement of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant Gen Tlali Kamoli, describing him as a polarising figure connected to the 30 August 2014 stand-off between the police and military, in which the police were disarmed.
In the statement, the US further said it was concerned that to date, no one had been held to account, but that the government had gone on to reinstate Lt Gen Kamoli, who, a day before violence broke between the police and military, had been fired from his elite post by former Premier Thomas Thabane.
The US further urged the Lesotho government to take “robust, concrete steps to address these concerns, and demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to the vital principle of civilian control over the military”.
In response to the US statement, and another one by the European Union also expressing concern at Lesotho’s security, Dr Mosisili on Monday told a media briefing in Maseru development partners had no say on who the country appoints to head its security forces and that their interference was in direct contravention of the principle of “non-interference on each other’s domestic/internal affairs”.
“Who each country appoints to head its military and policeis an internal matter that does not warrant external interference,” Mosisili said.
“The main principle guiding countries’ relations is that each should desist from interfering in each other’s internal or domestic affairs.”
But analysts warn that taking on development partners could result in economic woes for Lesotho, especially if the US decides to pull out aid in the form of the second phase of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact, or disqualify Lesotho as one of the beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) .
Both benefits require countries which qualify for aid to uphold, among others, the rule of law, principles of democracy and good governance as well as the protection of human rights.
Human Rights lawyer, Advocate Tikiso Maqakachane, told the Sunday Express that although each country is entitled to its sovereignty and non-intervention, the “non-interference is not absolute in a world where human rights take primacy”.
“Where one state seems to violate human rights and is not upholding the principle of good governance, other nations may intervene notwithstanding its sovereignty,” Adv Maqakachane said.
“You cannot create a façade of sovereignty behind which there’s perpetration of human rights violations, especially when we live in a global order where they will not allow you to violate human rights.”
Secondly, Adv Maqakachane said, the very states that claim sovereignty have actually parted with absolute sovereignty by taking up membership of global bodies such as the United Nations (UN) and ratifying conventions.
“There are bilateral agreements into which they enter and to which they have an obligation,” Adv Maqakachane said.
Again, he added, when a small and marginalised country like Lesotho signs for foreign aid, it also undertakes to follow certain rules and conditions “thus forfeiting certain rights”.
“The moment you enter into agreements, you give the state from which you solicit aid, the right to interfere in your internal affairs,” Adv Maqakachane said.
On the possible repercussions going forward if Lesotho remained firm on its position, Adv Maqakachane picked AGOA and the second phase of the MCA compact, as major areas of concern.
“If Lesotho decides to turn a blind eye to the concerns of the Americans, we risk not getting the second phase of the MCA compact and being disqualified from AGOA, as that would be a breach to agreements qualifying us for such aid,” Adv Maqakachance said.
“The US will then find it necessary to repudiate the agreement due to the material breach by Lesotho. Withdrawal of other amenities will likely follow.”
Two years ago, Swaziland was dropped from AGOA due to the country’s gross violation of human rights.
If a similar fate were to befall Lesotho, the country would lose approximately 35 000 jobs in the textile industry, which would be catastrophic for a country battling to create new jobs.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already warned that the government’s wage bill should be decreased as it swallows a large portion of the country’s annual budget.
Meanwhile, Mr Tsikoane Peshoane, Head of the Social and Environmental Justice Department at the Transformation Resource Center (TRC), also told the Sunday Express that singing the sovereignty song “Mr Mosisili is misdirecting himself”.
“He is misinterpreting the principle of non-interference because it does not say countries do not have the right to raise their voices when they have concerns about things happening in other states,” Mr Peshoane said.
“The principle of non-intervention is only limited to the military. Every country has the right to comment, especially when the world has become a global village.”
According to Mr Peshoane, by virtue of having subjected herself to membership of organisations such as the UN, of which the USA is a member “the US is within its rights to speak up when Lesotho comes across as trampling on agreements the country has signed on as well conventions it has ratified”.
“For instance, the UN’s fundamental principles include upholding principles of good governance and respect for civil and human rights, which should be universally adhered to,” Mr Peshoane said.
“Therefore, the US has the right to voice opinion when it feels things are not going well in Lesotho, just as Lesotho has the right to call the US to question if the country has concerns.”
Mr Tsikoane added by defending the reinstatement of Lt Gen Kamoli, Dr Mosisili had “confirmed speculation that Lesotho does not uphold the respect for human rights”.
“He agrees with the US that Kamoli is a polarizing figure because if that wasn’t the case, he needn’t have defended any of the decisions made by his government,” Mr Peshoane said.
“Instead, he should have explained and convinced the world that Kamoli is the material that is needed by the LDF at this point in time, that his reinstatement was credible and dignified.
“But he deprived himself of that opportunity, failed to show the world that he subscribes to principles of democracy.”
Dr Motlamelle Kapa of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) also said he was “baffled” by the position taken by the Democratic Congress leader and his seven-party government, pointing out that in international relations “small states like ours have a little voice”.
“If we think we can stand up to America as a small state, then we’re making a huge mistake,” Dr Kapa said.
“Besides, of all our development partners, the bulk of the foreign aid we receive is from the US. It therefore defies logic why we should even think of standing up to them in that fashion.”
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