SADC NGOs see security issues ahead of Lesotho poll

SADC non-governmental organisations say a pre-assessment of the environment in Lesotho has revealed security weaknesses in the troubled southern African kingdom, ahead of a hotly contested poll.

In a statement released yesterday, the Southern African Development Community  – Council of Non-Governmental Organisations said the recent assessment, conducted between February 11 and 15, was aimed at assessing how prepared Lesotho is to conduct free and fair elections.

The mountain kingdom goes to the poll on February 28.

The NGOs met with several stakeholders including political parties and the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho, during their assessment.

“Stakeholders raised a major concern about security challenges and related persisting tension and division among elements of the Basotho security sector,” the NGOs said.

“This remains a top priority to be addressed before the election.

“Further challenges have been noted, including polarisation of the media along political party preferences, corruption, tension among political parties and a leadership vacuum as well as absence of clear vision for the country to permanently resolving the persistent sources of crisis that led to the current problems.”

Noting that security sector challenges had caused the crisis that had led to parliament’s dissolution, the NGOs said the upcoming elections were a critical opportunity to consolidate democracy and stability in Lesotho.

“SADC must urgently put in place an immediate plan that prevents any actions on the part of the security sector interfering with electoral processes and a long-term roadmap for security sector reform.

“The SADC mission must ensure peace and stability by its presence for at least four months after the election. “SADC must further put in place a clear process for the political and other stakeholders to develop a detailed and coordinated roadmap for parliamentary and constitutional reforms, public sector reform and public finance management reform,” the NGOs said.

The NGOs also appealed to political parties to respect and adhere to the various accords and pledges they had signed towards free and fair elections and also to respect the will of the people. Lesotho was plunged into a crisis last year, forcing the dissolution of Parliament, following the controversial change of the head of army. The crisis resulted in an attempted coup and the flight of Prime Minister, Tom Thabane to South Africa.

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