Mbabane – Southern African Development Community (SADC) has urged South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to consult widely with warring parties to forge long term political stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho ahead of elections in June.
This extraordinary SADC conference – held in Swaziland at the weekend – said a national dialogue was the only option that could help map a way forward to restore peace and quell simmering tensions in Lesotho.
King Mswati III – chairperson of the regional block – told heads of states that the different organs should engage with SADC’s peace and security initiative that was set up to deal, once and for all, with fundamental challenges that bedevilled Lesotho.
Lesotho’s monarch, King Letsie III, dissolved the kingdom’s Parliament and called for elections two weeks ago. This was after opposition parties won a motion of no confidence in the coalition government on March 1, forcing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to either advise the king to dissolve Parliament and call for elections, or resign and allow lawmakers to choose a replacement.
Mosisili came to power in March 2015, after cobbling together an alliance of seven parties that won 65 seats in the 120-seat Parliament.
The coalition was dogged by infighting and the resignation of several cabinet ministers.
Mosisili’s predecessor, Motsoahae Thabane, the leader of the All Basotho Convention, had exploited the divisions and announced in November last year that he had struck a deal with other opposition parties to topple the government.
Mswati III did not rule out a possibility of SADC supporting a formation of a government of national unity to ensure lasting peace and security in Lesotho after the elections are held on June 3.
“Before the elections there will be a need of forming an oversight committee to work closely with facilitators to make sure that the country enjoys peace,” reads part of the highlights of the summit.
The summit also resolved to ask the United Nations to extend the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo – which is coming to an end on March 31. They said the duration of the mandate will only be decided once the country has held its elections and there were signs of a smooth transition.
France has circulated a draft resolution to renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission, but is facing scrutiny from the United States which is seeking cuts to UN peace operations. France’s ambassador to the United Nations warned on Tuesday that drastic cuts to the mission would be tantamount to “playing with fire” as the country faces election turmoil.
“The DRC is at a crossroads,” Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters ahead of a Security Council meeting on the situation in the vast, resource-rich African country.
The country’s first peaceful political transition through elections and the protection of civilians are at stake, he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the council to boost the UN mission, known by its acronym MONUSCO, by up to 320 UN police and to maintain the current level of military troops.
The UN has 19 000 soldiers, police and military observers deployed in the DRC, its biggest and costliest peacekeeping mission.
On another matter, long serving Angolan President Jose Eduardo Santos who has announced his intentions of stepping down, bid farewell to heads of states saying by the time the regional block met, he will no longer be in office.
After months of violence, the influential Catholic Church brokered a deal in late December to pave the way for elections, but the agreement has been bogged down in disputes over the appointment of a new prime minister.
Elections would bring an end to the rule of President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001.
- Additional reporting News24