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OPEN LETTER TO US AMBASSADOR TO LESOTHO, REBECCA E. GONZALES

Writes Bokang Ramats’ella

I write this letter to You as a Representative of the Government of the United States of America (USA) in the Kingdom of Lesotho, to express my utmost indignation with regard to your Government’s application of different standards for situations which are generally the same in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Let me remind you that during the tenure of the previous government in the period between 2015 and 2017, the US Government through its Ambassador in the Kingdom of Lesotho Mr Mathew Harrington, threatened the previous Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho with economic sanctions, including the withdrawal of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact.

Let me also remind You that Your Government cited a litany of incidents which they claimed, touched on the foundations of good governance and the rule of law.

Your Government cited, among others, the purported human rights violations, killings and the subsequent collapse of the rule of law which were perpetrated by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) as primary reasons for its discontent.

It is therefore pertinent to mention that in the context of this discontent, the US Government called upon the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to dismiss the then Commander of Lesotho Defence Force-LDF Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, arrest all soldiers who were alleged to have been involved in commission of crimes and release all mutiny soldiers thereby, disregarding the pronouncement by the High Court of Lesotho that those mutinous soldiers had a case to answer.

I should also mention that as part of punitive measures, Your Government went an extra mile to suspend all bilateral courses and trainings offered to members of the LDF.

However, for all intents and purposes, I am perturbed by Your Government’s lack of consistency in dealing with the same situation in the same country. This stems from the fact that during the tenure of the previous Government fewer than five (5) five people alleged to have been murdered by members of the LDF, while over 40 people have i.e killed by the marauding police torture squads and hundreds more have been severely tortured and some have been left with permanent disability. Up until now, not a single Police Officer has been brought to book to answer for these heinous crimes committed by Police in the Police Cells.

What is more surprising in this double standard and lopsided approach by the USA government is that it is in direct violation of the Section 8 (1) of the Constitution of Lesotho read with Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Prime Minister Thomas MotsoahaeThabane ordered the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to torture suspects.

Your Excellency, on this note, there is no denying that it is under these direct orders that the LMPS have committed and are still continuing to commit a string of barbarous acts of gross human rights violations characterized by severe torture and extra-judicial killings.

Moreover, as self-proclaimed defenders of human rights, your Government has turned a blind eye to dozens of soldiers who have been detained for over 18 months without trial and denied their right to get bail.

Astonishingly, there is indeed a deafening silence on the part of your government with regard to all these Let me remind you that during the tenure of the previous Government when one (1) highest ranking Army Officer by the name of Maaparankoe Mahao was shot dead by his colleagues, the then Prime Minister of Lesotho setup a Commission of Inquiry with the help of SADC to investigate circumstances surrounding his death and make recommendations thereto.

Today, as You may know Your Excellency, three (3) top Officers of LDF, including the Commander have been killed in the Commander’s office and nothing has been done about it. It is business as usual.

Taking into consideration what US Government’s stance was during the tenure of the previous Government, it has become abundantly clear that this time around the same US Government backtracked on its previous position to endorse criminality and tyranny in Lesotho.

This is exemplified by the fact that the same US Government which was most vocal during the tenure of the previous government has not threatened this brutal regime with any economic sanctions including the withdrawal of AGOA and MCC. Neither has it called for the dismissal of the Commissioner of Police Mr. Holomo Molibeli. It is business as usual.

I therefore have a strong conviction that the US Government through its Embassy in Lesotho condones police brutality in all its forms and is prepared to sacrifice the noble principle of the rule of law to prop up the regime.

A look at all these incidents clearly suggests that Your Government’s concern with the previous Government was not necessarily about human rights violations as our people in the international community at large were made to believe but it was more about regime change.

Your Excellency You may know that Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara has been unceremoniously dismissed and replaced by a puppet Judge, and this has subsequently paralyzed the Judiciary.

The Appeal Court sessions have been suspended purportedly because of lack of funds. The Magistrate Courts have also been paralyzed because of the ongoing strike by the Magistrates there. And for the first time, the Law Society of Lesotho has resolved to also suspend its duties in the courts until this impasse has been resolved.

Again, long before its Easter break, the Parliament was closed sine die immediately after passing the budget. This is clearly abnormal and can only be attributed to the Prime Minister using his powers to run away from the Motion of No Confidence. All these defy the Principle of Separation of Powers and the Rule of Law.

The signing of MCC compact by Your Government is not only a clear indication but also a categorical determination to support the aforementioned state-sponsored atrocities and human rights violations against the Basotho people.

Your Excellency, as a Representative of Your Government, I would like you to clearly pronounce Your position regarding the release of the MCC funds despite the current situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

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