Maseru, Lesotho: On 25 May 2017 the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2017 National Assembly Elections in the Kingdom of Lesotho was officially launched by the Head of Mission, Honourable Dr Augustine P. Mahiga (MP)Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, at the Avani Hotel, Maseru, Lesotho. The SEOM is in Lesotho to observe the forthcoming 2017 National Assembly Elections which take place on 3 June 2017, following the dissolution of Parliament on 6th March 2017, after a vote of no-confidence in the present government was passed on 1st March 2017.
The launch event was opened on behalf of the SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena L. Tax, by Mr. Jorge C. Cardoso, the Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs. Representatives from the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho (IEC), Heads and representatives of Diplomatic Missions accredited to the Kingdom of Lesotho, Heads of International Electoral Observer Missions, leaders and representatives of political parties, religious leaders and members of civil society, the media and other electoral stakeholders were present at the launch.
In the preparations of SEOM, the Head of Mission recognised the considerable work conducted by various regional and local stakeholder such as the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). In his remarks, the Head of Mission highlighted that the forthcoming National Assembly Elections in Lesotho are the third to take place in a period of less than five years. In this context, the Head of Mission also recognised the on-going work of the SADC Oversight Committee on the Kingdom of Lesotho which has been consulting with the stakeholders and Government with respect to the implementation of the Lesotho Reforms Programme as mandated by the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government, with the cooperation of the Government of Lesotho. He referred that this is one of the critical interventions made by SADC to assist the Kingdom of Lesotho to stabilise its political system.
The Head of the Mission recalled that the July 2015 SADC revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, aim to strengthen the Region’s skills and capabilities of assessing major inter-related segments of the electoral cycle in order to provide stronger evidence-based recommendations and electoral assistance to Member States, with further provision for Long-Term Observation.
The Head of the Mission noted that it is evident from SADC’s extended presence on the ground in Lesotho that the resolution of the political and security problems is not entirely predicated upon the elections and its outcomes, and that “clearly, there has to be stronger and time-bound commitment to broader reforms in the political, security and public sectors in order to stabilise the country.” He added that “SADC Member States have consistently urged the leadership in Lesotho to institute reforms in order to stabilize the government.” He further noted that the hesitation and delay in implementing the reforms has greatly contributed to the current and previous political crisis in the government.
In addition, he highlighted that it is paradoxical that “on this 25th day of May, 2017 marking the historical occasion of the Commemoration of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity; when we should ordinarily be celebrating milestones in the advancement of our societies and the consolidation of our democratic institutions; we are still locked in protracted debates on the basic requirements of forming and stabilizing governments”.
The SEOM mission noted the very significant Commitment by Lesotho’s Parties to an Inclusive, Participatory and Comprehensive Reforms Process witnessed by the Heads of the Christian Churches of Lesotho, the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho, SADC, and other regional and international organisations on 6th April, 2017. The Head of the Mission also noted that, “pledges demand commitment in implementation as the measure of integrity by the leadership and other stakeholders.” He noted that “after three elections within less than five years the fatigued voters deserve a different and durable outcome. He further indicated that “SADC will definitely take these pledges and commitments seriously in supporting the reform process in the Kingdom of Lesotho by the next government”.
The SEOM observer teams will be deployed to all the ten provinces of the Kingdom of Lesotho and conduct their observation in all the 10 districts on 3 June 2017. In addition, the SEOM will observe advance voting which is scheduled to take place on 27 May 2017.
In conclusion, the Head of Mission invited all stakeholders to attend the release of the SEOM Preliminary Statement on 5 June 2017, at Avani Lesotho Hotel in Maseru.