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Commission needs buy-in of all



AS reported in the media last week, the government of Lesotho is mulling setting up a National Peace and Unity Commission to deal with serious cases of human rights violations. The Commission will hear evidence from suspected human rights violators in an attempt to promote what it calls national healing and peace. It will also hear evidence from individuals who might be facing criminal trials. Such individuals could even be pardoned and set free with the government paying what it considers is “fair reparations” to the victims’ families within six months. We are not surprised that there has been a fierce backlash from victims who see the Commission as an insidious plot to free suspects facing serious charges through the back door. Individuals such as former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and other soldiers who were arrested in 2017 over the killing of Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao could be freed. Former deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing and Movement for Economic Change leader Selibe Mochoboroane, who both lost a court bid to stop their prosecution, could also benefit. The two are facing treason charges over the events of August 30, 2014 when the army raided the State House and police stations in what the then government said was an attempted coup d’etat. This Commission is essentially a Justice Dikgang Moseneke project. That is precisely why he came to Lesotho – to fi x Lesotho so that this tiny country does not have to go through cycles of political instability again. It would appear that in order to achieve that goal, Justice Moseneke wants Basotho to draw a line in the sand so that we can move on. While we understand his quest to seek lasting solutions to Lesotho’s historical crises, we do not think the proposal will work if certain sections of Basotho society remain on the terraces. A Commission of such magnitude will need the buy-in of all Basotho if it is to succeed. At the present moment, that buy-in from Basotho is not there. Instead, what we have heard so far are raucous statements coming from the victims’ families opposing the amnesty deals with others fiercely backing the proposals. We are not surprised that the Mahao family, like most aggrieved families who lost their loved ones at the hands of soldiers at the height of the political disturbances between 2014 and 2017, remain viscerally opposed to the proposals. What they want to see is justice for their slain relatives. In their humble opinion, the current proposals where suspects would appear before the Commission and testify truthfully regarding what exactly happened do not go far enough. We understand their anger. Given this reality, it would be wrong for Justice Moseneke and SADC to attempt to push down the Commission on Basotho. Instead Justice Moseneke should muster his vast intellectual stamina to persuade Basotho to accept this proposal. Justice Moseneke and many others also believe that the current cycle of prosecutions and counter prosecutions will not help Basotho heal. He wants to draw a line in the sand so that the country can move on. He might have a point. That is why Justice Moseneke is even proposing some form of compensation to the aggrieved. While that might not bring back their loved ones, it is one gesture to demonstrate that they are sorry.

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