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An Urgent Plea to UNDP Lesotho: Upholding sovereignty, justice, and respect for Laws

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“Colonialism and its attitudes die hard, like the attitudes of slavery, whose hangover still dominates behaviour in certain parts of the Western hemisphere,” Kwame Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite

Motsamai Mokotjo

As a concerned citizen of Lesotho, I write to you today with a sense of urgency and dismay regarding recent actions that have deeply troubled our nation’s spirit of sovereignty, respect for laws, and commitment to the rule of law.

The principles that guide our democracy and uphold our nation’s identity are being put to the test, and it is with utmost concern that I seek to address these pressing matters.

The recent developments surrounding the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2022, have raised significant questions about the role of international organisations and their alignment with our national values.

The Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho, and its Chairperson, Kananelo Boloetse, have filed an urgent application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of reinstating Bills that died when Parliament was dissolved last year. This is a clear testament to our nation’s commitment to upholding the sanctity of our legal processes and ensuring that justice is served.

The government’s attempt to resuscitate the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2022, which had been declared dead by the High Court last year, has been met with widespread concern. It is a matter that holds direct implications for the rule of law, democratic principles, and the sovereignty of Lesotho.

In response to this, the National Assembly on Tuesday rightfully adjourned its special meeting, acknowledging that the matter is sub-judice and that its outcome will directly impact the proceedings.

However, it is with great consternation that I observed the actions of UNDP Lesotho on Wednesday. An organisation that claims to work in partnership with the government and development partners to strengthen good governance, the rule of law, and human rights, has shockingly endorsed a workshop intended to build consensus among members of both houses of Parliament regarding the very same Bill that is under legal scrutiny.

“The workshop is intended to build consensus among members of the two houses before the Bill is resuscitated and passed in Parliament,” UNDP said on Twitter. Does the UNDP know that the High Court will eventually allow for the Bill to be resuscitated?

This workshop, by its nature, attempts to influence the opinions of legislators and potentially predetermine the outcome of a matter before the courts.

The principle of sub-judice, a fundamental tenet of justice, has been disregarded in this instance. This principle underscores the importance of refraining from discussing matters that are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings, in order to preserve the fairness and impartiality of the judicial process. By supporting a workshop on a matter under legal review, and making noise about it on social media, the UNDP’s actions have undermined the principles of justice, due process, and the independence of our judiciary.

This action is deeply concerning on multiple levels. It raises questions about the intentions behind such a workshop, especially when a court application is specifically challenging the resuscitation of the same Bill. By proceeding with the workshop, the UNDP risks sending the message that it holds a preconceived notion about the outcome of the court case.

This not only compromises the integrity of the legal proceedings but also damages the credibility of an organisation that claims to uphold democratic values.

I implore the UNDP to consider the ramifications of its actions on the relationship between Lesotho and the international community. Our nation, like any sovereign nation, deserves the respect and consideration of its partners. The principle of respect for sovereignty should guide the actions of international organisations operating within our borders.

Lesotho is not a colony; it is a nation with a rich history of struggle and resilience, and its people deserve to have their values, laws, and judicial processes respected.

Furthermore, it is crucial to acknowledge the global context within which these actions are unfolding. The relationships between Western countries and African nations have been increasingly strained, leading to heightened anti-West/Europe sentiment across the continent.

By provoking Basotho with actions that seem to undermine our sovereignty and disregard our legal processes, the UNDP risks fanning the flames of such sentiment.

We are not immune to the tensions that exist, and the actions of international organisations must be conducted with the utmost sensitivity and respect.

In conclusion, I urge the UNDP to unequivocally apologise for its actions that have raised concerns and sowed doubt about its commitment to Lesotho’s values and laws.

The principle of sub-judice must be respected, and the actions of organisations must align with the democratic ideals that guide our nation. Lesotho’s progress and development are best achieved through partnerships that respect our sovereignty, uphold our laws, and promote mutual understanding.

Let us work together to build a future where international partnerships are founded on mutual respect, cooperation, and a commitment to the principles that underpin our societies.

As a concerned citizen, I implore the UNDP to reconsider its actions and uphold the values of justice, respect, and accountability.

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