Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 10, May 2011
Lesotho concludes political dialogue, now ready for elections

The conclusion of an agreement by political parties in Lesotho after lengthy negotiations paves the way for the peaceful holding of elections scheduled for 2012.

The Southern African Development Community concluded its mediation efforts in Lesotho in April following more than two years of talks aimed at finding a lasting solution to the political challenges in the country.

Post-electoral dissatisfaction emerged in Lesotho after the 2007 elections as the opposition party refused to accept the results, plunging the country into a crisis.

This resulted in a negotiating team comprising the Heads of Churches in Lesotho and the SADC Troika facilitators being put in place by southern African leaders to address the situation.

A statement released by the negotiating team says a lot has been achieved since the dialogue began two years ago, hence the decision to formally conclude the talks.

"On 28 April 2011, the stakeholders to the on-going mediation process on the 2007 political dialogue agreed that the mediation be formally concluded."

"The stakeholders agreed that all the issues to the dialogue had been dealt with, thus paving the way for the next elections."

Stakeholders to the meditation process include the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho, the ruling party, opposition parties and the government.

The stakeholders have among other things agreed to amend the Lesotho Electoral Law in preparation for the next election. The ultimate result of this was the presentation of the National Assembly Electoral Bill 2011 and the 6th Amendment to the Constitution to the Parliament in March.

The two-year political dialogue has allowed stakeholders to share and exchange ideas, providing important lessons for future national engagements.

The successful conclusion of talks in Lesotho is another example of practical commitment by southern Africa to find lasting solutions to the political and security challenges in the region.

In September 2008, SADC brokered an agreement in Zimbabwe that saw the formation of an inclusive government in February 2009.

The inclusive government led by President Robert Mugabe with former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister has been credited for addressing many of the country’s political challenges.

However, analysts say that economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United Kingdom, United States and the European Union have derailed the country’s economic turnaround programme.

To address the political situation in Madagascar, SADC has appointed former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to mediate in the dialogue.

Madagascar slid into political turmoil in March 2009 after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina seized power from President Marc Ravalomanana in a public demonstration backed by the military, similar to the method used by Ravalomanana when he seized power a few years earlier from his predecessor, Didier Ratsiraka.

SADC-led mediation efforts have seen Madagascan leaders agree to set up a transitional government to govern the country until fresh elections are held this year. However, implementation of this agreement continues to be a challenge.

SADC together with other partners has pledged to intensify its efforts to ensure the resolution of political disputes in the region.

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