Political parties in Lesotho have agreed to sign a pre-election peace pledge as Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland completes her four-day mission in the country.
The pledge will include commitments to promote a peaceful election and to accept the results, provided the election process was deemed credible. Prime Minister Bethuel Mosisili announced a general election in March following a no-confidence vote in parliament and the collapse of the coalition government.
During her visit to Lesotho, Secretary-General Scotland met with King Letsie III, Mr Mosisili, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, Foreign Minister Mamphono Khaketla, other government ministers, leaders of opposition parties, the Independent Electoral Commission, NGO and faith-based representatives and the diplomatic community.
In 2014 the Commonwealth launched a set of guidelines on effective coalition governance in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme. Produced by Commonwealth special envoy Rajen Prasad, the guidelines, along with an in-depth report and a mission to New Zealand to study its parliamentary and governance system, paved the way for the creation of a roadmap to reform.
The Secretary-General reassured stakeholders of the Commonwealth’s continued support for the peacebuilding and governance reform agenda which mandates transformation of Lesotho’s constitutional, security, judiciary, parliamentary and public sectors. On 6 April this year most political parties signed a pledge committing them to implement these reforms.
“I am truly delighted that my message of a peace-building Commonwealth resonated with everyone I met,” said Secretary-General Scotland. “I saw a strong desire by all to progress the reform agenda, which is critical, not just for robust governance, but also to create a conducive environment for economic development.
“I am particularly reassured that all political camps have agreed to sign the pre-election peace pledge and we have confirmation from the remaining parties who were yet to sign the reform pledge, that they will now do so. All parties have also confirmed their commitment to a multi-stakeholder approach to the reform process, proposed by regional body South African Development Community.”
In meetings, the government and opposition parties expressed their gratitude to the Secretary-General for the Commonwealth’s unwavering support. She also received requests for assistance during the election and with the governance reform.
Secretary-General Scotland confirmed to ministers and the Independent Electoral Commission that she will be sending an observer mission for the elections and will help facilitate the implementation of the reform agenda.
“I’ve met with the United Nations Development Programme, the EU ambassador and other members of the diplomatic community and we have all agreed that it would be counterproductive to work in silos. To best support Lesotho’s reform process, we need to look at what resources are required, identify gaps and decide which of us is best placed to provide expertise or other kinds of support.”
The Secretary-General stressed the need for a strategic action-oriented plan for implementation with defined milestones.
“As I complete my mission to this much loved Commonwealth member, I want to let the people of Lesotho know that they will be in my prayers, and that their friends in the Commonwealth will be standing with them before, during and after the election,” said Secretary-General Scotland
From Lesotho, the Secretary-General will travel to Malawi to deepen the relationship between the country and Commonwealth and explore further areas of collaboration and partnership.