Development for Peace Education (DPE) welcomes pledge by political parties committing to prioritise reforms after 2017 General Elections and describes this as a major victory for the nation. Though the logical expectation would be for the narration on how is this so, the focus is what interest does DPE as a civil society organisation have on reforms?
DPE has been part of political dialogue in Lesotho since early 1990s. The founder Sr Veronica ‘Mapeseka Phafoli, worked with the Heads of Churches in the preparation and facilitation of The National Conference held by the church and civil society organisations under the auspices of Lesotho council of NGOs in 1991. This was aimed at providing Basotho with a platform to agree on a future that will close post 1970 chapter and begin a new constitutional dispensation. This conference was held in light of elections anticipated to be in 1992 which finally materialised in 1993. Civil society has called for institutional transformation but political leadership has not found it as a solution.
Today people refer to reforms as a SADC recommendation, conditionality by the US government, call by the AU and appeal by the international community but for us at DPE, reforms is what Basotho have always needed. For confirmation see example National Dialogue 1995 (Lesotho Council of NGOs) 20th Anniversary of constitution 2013(TRC), Seminar Report on Constitutional Consensus Building 2012 (DPE and Action Aid), Lesotho civil society petition to SADC Troika in Victoria Falls, 2014, Community Voices Report on the New Zealand 2014 (DPE). The reforms could not be done in the previous coalition as when it had challenges SADC and political leadership chose elections over reforms. In the run up to 2015 General Elections DPE solicited and got positive response from parties that they will embark on reforms. However despite the Khokanyana Phiri regime priding itself as a reformist government, things did not go as anticipated. DPE has been in all 80 constituencies facilitating community dialogue(Questionaire) over the content of reforms and the voices are being compiled into a report. However DPE realised that in the absence of consensus among leaders, reforms process is likely to be elitist and not acceptable to all. This led to the civil society initiative which proposed inclusive, participatory, non-elitist reforms process (Civil Society Proposal on Reforms Process).
In 2017 parliament chose a motion of no confidence on Prime Minister Mosisili and his government over other means of pursuing reforms and Mosisili on return opted for dissolution of parliament over resigning. These political decisions looked at collectively put reforms at the back seat among priorities and the legitimate fear was that it would be the case after 2017 elections. For DPE and other civil society organisations reforms would among other things provide for effective and sustainable coalition government. This explains why DPE has been part of CCL-EU led process thinking about rescuing reforms from likely new prioritisation after elections. This is the work done in collaboration with IEC, LCN and UNDP. Now that parties agreed that reforms take priority over any other agenda after elections (Reforms Pledge) DPE is happy.
This forms a basis for engagement with the new regime. At least the people’s process for which DPE has been a master mind is protected and shall be carried forward. DPE shall use various community approaches in its constructive engagement advocacy to keep reforms dream lively and eventually materialising.
DPE is grateful for the support of its partners OSISA, DLN & Action-Aid.
– Sofonea Shale