MASERU — Lesotho’s decision to invite the Sadc Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) for the May 26 poll is an illustration of the country’s commitment to the consolidation of democracy, head of mission Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim said yesterday.
Ebrahim was speaking at the launch of the Sadc observer mission to monitor this month’s election.
The mission arrived in Lesotho on May 2 and is expected to leave on May 30 after issuing preliminary assessment of the electoral process.
According to Ebrahim, Article 5 of the Sadc Treaty committed member states to “promote common political values, systems and other shared values”.
“These are transmitted through institutions which are democratic, legitimate and effective to consolidate, defend and maintain democracy, peace, security and stability,” Ebrahim said.
“By inviting Sadc to observe her parliamentary elections, Lesotho illustrates her commitment to the consolidation of democracy in the region.”
The launch was attended by members of the observer missions to Lesotho, heads of diplomatic missions, members of the diplomatic corps, political party leaders, civil society organisations and the media.
Ebrahim was flanked by Sadc’s executive secretary Dr Thomas Salomao and Ambassador Zodwa Lallie, Chief Director of Africa Multilateral at South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
Ebrahim added that the launch was a significant milestone in Sadc’s continued efforts to enhance peace, security and regional integration.
He also applauded Lesotho for subjecting herself to the electoral process which was necessary for participatory governance.
Sadc had already established an Election Advisory Council (SEAC) that seeks to entrench democracy in the region, Ebrahim said.
“The mission will also be consulting widely with major stakeholders including political parties, independent candidates, the IEC, the police, and civil society organisations,” he added.
The mission would also observe and attend political party election campaigns and rallies.
Ebrahim, who is also South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, appealed to Basotho to act honourably and responsibly when they either win or lose the election.
“The process must assure voters and those voted for, to honourably accept the people’s verdict,” he said.
“We would also like to urge stakeholders in this election to adhere to and respect the rule of law so as to continue with peace and tranquility that Lesotho is known for.”
Salomao said the launch heralded a new era after the successful completion in 2011 of the political dialogue to resolve the impasse following the controversial allocation of proportional representation seats in parliament after the 2007 elections.
Salomao described the May 26 poll as a true testimony that Sadc member states had rooted and entrenched democratic values and practices in the quest “for enhancement and consolidation of democratic institutions in the region”.
Asked what lessons Sadc had learnt from the 2007 election Salomao said they hoped there was not going to be a repeat of the same conflict.
“We don’t want a repetition of the events that followed the 2007 elections. We can only achieve that by striving for a credible election,” Salomao said.
“We don’t want to be sending another mediation team to Lesotho. We hope the IEC also has the required capacity to run the forthcoming election.”
Salomao said Basotho should be afforded an opportunity to have an electoral process that allows them to have the final say.
Asked if Sadc did not think of deploying the observer mission to Lesotho just two weeks before elections would hinder them from forming a clear picture of what was happening on the ground, Lallie said they had actually started observing elections long before the launch.
Lallie noted that they could not send a mission months prior to the polling day due to financial constraints.
“There are costs involved therefore we could not send a mission three months before elections. This is the best we can do. We’ve given ourselves ample time to make a clear assessment, not based on rumour or anything else,” she added.
The mission’s assignment was strictly to observe elections and not to monitor or interfere in the electoral process.
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