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Mosisili thumbs nose at America

by Sunday Express
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‘They can keep their aid, but they should know that Basotho will continue to live without their help,’ says premier.

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

Qacha’s Nek

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Friday said the Americans can withhold their aid to Lesotho if the funding comes with “unacceptable” conditions such as sacking army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli.

Dr Mosisili maintained his government will survive without American funding and insisted Lesotho is a sovereign state which does not accept outside interference.

Addressing a public gathering organised by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in Qacha’s Nek two days after the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board indefinitely suspended funding to Lesotho citing the country’s poor governance, Dr Mosisili said the Kingdom would survive without the American government agency’s aid.

Lesotho received its first five-year MCC grant or Compact in July 2007. The $362.5 million Compact, among others, helped fund the construction of Metolong Dam, as well as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to mitigate the negative economic impact of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases. It was not immediately clear how much Lesotho was expecting in the second Compact, but Tanzania, whose vote was also deferred during Wednesday’s Board meeting, was in line to receive $472million.

However, Dr Mosisili told Friday’s gathering, which was also graced by, among others, Lt-Gen Kamoli and Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, that no amount of pressure would make his government change its stance on the army commander accused by opposition parties of a host of crimes. One of those alleged offenses is leading a failed coup against the government of Dr Thomas Thabane on 30 August 2014, which resulted in the death of a senior police officer. The opposition has since called for Lt-Gen Kamoli’s removal as army commander, alleging his continued stay compromised the country’s security.

But Dr Mosisili told Friday’s gathering during which the LDF showcased firearms  recovered from local residents during a joint-operation with the police: “Yesterday, I was called from America by one of the MCC officials. He was talking about Lesotho’s relations with America; he told me that they are holding their horses in terms of giving us donations. He said this decision was reached at because America first wanted to convince itself that indeed there is peace and stability in Lesotho.

“He said America wanted to be sure that the Lesotho army is under civilian control, so I said to him there was no problem at all. They can wait until they are satisfied that this army is not out of order. In the past, we have told them again and again that this army is not out of control of its civilian authorities but the Americans decide not to believe what we tell them.

“So they can hold their horses. They can keep their aid, but they should know that Basotho will continue to live without their help. I am saying this here purposely because I want to reaffirm to you the position of the government that we wholeheartedly support this army and its command. The LDF is under our control and it is guided by the laws of this country.”

Dr Mosisili reiterated government’s trust in Lt-Gen Kamoli’s leadership.

“Even when Lt-Gen Kamoli was removed from office some two years ago (by then premier Dr Thabane), we always maintained that the dismissal was illegal. This is why, when we got into government (in March this year), we reinstated him. Now the international community seems to be making noise about this and making unacceptable demands about him, and I don’t know why. Lt-Gen Kamoli is the commander and we are not going to change that,” Dr Mosisili said.

‘Trust’ in Lt-Gen Kamoli

The premier also told the gathering why he had such faith in Lt-Gen Kamoli.

“Earlier this week, I received information that there could be political riots in Maseru similar to what happened in 1998 when the town was burnt down.

“I was already here in Qacha’s Nek when I received that information from a certain priest. He said there were rumours that Maseru would soon be burnt to ashes in a repeat of what happened in 1998.

“I immediately called the Minister of Defence and National Security, Mr Tšeliso Mokhosi, who was unfortunately not available on his phone. I also called the Police Minister, Mr Monyane Moleleki, who told me there was nothing like that. I further spoke to Lt-Gen Kamoli and he said to me what people didn’t know was that what happened in 1998 could not have happened if the army was performing its functions properly.

“He told me if the LDF had taken responsibility of the situation, the Botswana and South African armies could not have entered the country in 1998. He reassured me that what happened in 1998 cannot happen while he is the commander. What he said continued to build my trust in him. It is high time people woke up and realised that today is not yesterday. They should be aware that this country has its own laws.”

Meanwhile, in a letter dated 15 June 2015 and addressed to Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla, MCC Vice-President Beth Tritter noted the Corporation’s partnership with Lesotho was established on “mutual commitment to good governance, which includes accountability and respect for the rule of law”.

Ms Tritter added she was concerned over events of August 2014, which saw LDF members attacking Maseru Central Police Station, Mabote Police Station and Police Headquarters. Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was shot dead during the attack on Police Headquarters in what the army said was a special operation. However, Dr Thabane called the assaults an attempted coup, and accused Lt-Gen Kamoli, whom he had fired the previous day, of orchestrating the botched putsch.

Dr Thabane fled the country on the night of the attacks, and only returned a week later under the protection of the South African police.

Because of the instability which followed the 30 August 2014 events, Lesotho eventually went for an early election in February this year, resulting in a new government led by Dr Mosisili.

But the fatal shooting of former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June this year outside Maseru by his fellow soldiers—allegedly as he resisted arrest for suspected mutiny—plunged Lesotho into turmoil and was condemned both at home and internationally.

Dr Thabane and his two opposition allies, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantso of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) respectively,  had fled to South Africa the previous month claiming the army was out to assassinate them. The three leaders remain in exile in South Africa, alongside several members of their parties and the LDF. Lt-Gen Mahao and the opposition leaders’ flight prompted an investigation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) whose report is complete but is yet to be made public.

The arrest of 23 soldiers between May and June this year on mutiny charges, further put Lesotho under the spotlight, which the MCC alluded to when differing Lesotho’s decision on funding.

“The Board discussed the fact that due to on-going concerns over the rule of law and accountability in the country, and an expected report from the Southern Africa Development Community on these same issues, a vote on reselection would be premature at this time. The Board may revisit its decision over the course of 2016 as more information becomes available,” the MCC Board noted.

About the MCC

The MCC is a bilateral United States foreign aid agency established by the US Congress in 2004. The Corporation provides “well-performing” nations with grants or Compacts to fund country-led solutions for reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth.  MCC grants complement other American and international development programmes. There are two primary types of MCC grants: Compacts and Threshold Programmes. Compacts are large five-year grants for countries that pass the MCC’s eligibility criteria, while Threshold Programmes are smaller grants awarded to nations that come close to passing these criteria and are firmly committed to improving their policy performance.

In July 2007, the MCC signed a five-year, $362.5 million compact with the Government of Lesotho designed to increase economic growth and reduce poverty.  The Compact funded work with other international donors on one of the largest infrastructure-improvement projects in Lesotho’s history, the Metolong Dam, as well as PEPFAR to mitigate the negative economic impacts of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases.

The Lesotho Compact funded projects in three areas that were jointly-identified by the Government of Lesotho and MCC as a result of broad collaboration with key stakeholders, including the private sector, non-governmental organisations and civil society. These areas were water, health and private sectors.

At the end of the compact in September 2013, the Government of Lesotho and MCC had spent nearly 99 percent of the anticipated Compact funds to improve water supply, increase access to essential health services and remove barriers to private sector investment with approximately one million people expected to benefit from the investments.

Lesotho was expecting a second five-year compact when the MCC board met in Washington on 16 December and decided to defer its vote on the country’s reselection.

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