PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government has sharply rebuked the United States over its insistence that Lesotho should implement major reforms to ensure African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility for 2017.
In a further souring of the frayed relations between the seven-party coalition government and Lesotho’s biggest benefactor, Maseru even went as far as accusing the United States of breaching diplomatic protocol by allegedly leaking on social media a letter addressed to the premier.
The government has also accused the Americans of trying to railroad Lesotho to make decisions that suit “the US Embassy’s fancy” purportedly in contravention of Southern African Development Community (SADC) resolutions.
The strongly-worded response was penned by Dr Mosisili’s Economic and Political Advisor Dr Fako Likoti after the United States government wrote a letter to the premier last week stating that the Mountain Kingdom had failed to meet governance benchmarks to benefit from AGOA.
In the letter whose contents were published in the Lesotho Times’ sister paper Sunday Express, the Americans took particular note of the government’s failure to investigate the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao and not releasing detained soldiers facing mutiny charges as recommended by the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Commission of Inquiry.
After the killing of the former army commander on 25 June 2015, Dr Mosisili asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, resulting in the Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Phumaphi of Botswana.
The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.
It also recommended that Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli be relieved of his duties “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation” and officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason be suspended while investigations in their cases proceeded “in line with international best practice”.
The missive, which was signed by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa Florizelle Liser, said that while the retirement of LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli on 1 December this year “marks a welcome and positive step forward”, it was not sufficient in implementing SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendations.
The Americans also urged Lesotho to make “concrete progress” in implementing the recommendations or face being booted out of AGOA. AGOA gives duty-free and quota-free access to the United States market to eligible Sub-Saharan African countries including Lesotho.
The Mountain Kingdom is among 37 nations benefitting from AGOA through its textile industry which employs an estimated 40 000 workers. The law obligates the American president to designate countries eligible to benefit from the trade facility on an annual basis after undergoing a review process.
Among the main eligibility criteria for the facility are a market-based economy, rule of law, systems to combat corruption and not engaging in gross violations of internationally-recognised human rights. A determination on Lesotho’s AGOA eligibility will be made before the end of the year and become effective on 1 January 2017.
Dr Likoti’s response titled “A 50 year relations with the United States of America: Some reflections”, starts off by acknowledging the longstanding relationship between the two countries since Lesotho’s independence in 1966.
“As we reflect on the momentous relations Lesotho had with the United States of America in the past 50 years, one can only marvel at the route and terrain we have traversed. Lesotho recorded many milestones under this partnership and the cordial relations have grown from strength to