Peaceful government transition in Lesotho

Handing over of the National Flag to the Incoming Prime Minister following the swearing-in ceremony.

Since 1998 elections, post election activities and taking over of government was never a peaceful event.  For one reason or the other political leaders would, in most cases those who lost, dispute election results.   Prior to 2012 elections, UNDP decided to engage local mediators and capacitated the Christian Council of Lesotho as local mediators.  They made all the political leaders understand and stand each other as winners and loosers of any elections.

After the 1998 elections, SADC tried to solve the political problems, the South African government leading all the efforts.  In 2002 and 2007 external mediations took over full time, including the ex-president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire who came to Lesotho as the mediator and after two and a half years of full interaction will all stakeholders, no positive results were realized.

For the 2012 general elections,  the guidance given by UNDP and leadership by church leaders made sure that all suggestions and recommendations by political leaders were implemented.  Some of the political leaders concerns were that the IEC delays delivery of voting materials to voting stations.  Therefore, UNDP contracted a consultant to assist with logistical issues pre and post election day.  The UNDP also assisted in the formation of the IEC Tribunal on Disputes Resolution, which addressed all issues that required immediate attention, especially just a few days before the elections.

Highlights:

  • The daily meetings prior to elections paved the way and helped political leaders to prepare their minds and accept elections results.
  • The processes and preparations for the incoming government were smooth.
  • The Basotho nation turned out in big numbers at the stadium to witness the inauguration and taking of oath of the new Prime Minister.

The elections themselves were smooth and peaceful, but the results revealed that there was no political party which had won enough number of constituencies to form government on its own, so three political parties formed coalition and announced themselves as such to the Council of State.

The process to take over the government by these parties who had formed coalition, seemed very slow, complicated and tense.  The coalition political party leaders kept continuous contact and update with UNDP, like the use of UN grounds to hold meetings.  Even the military, who many had feared might negatively intervene, kept quiet and waited for the incoming government.

So it was against all odds that tens of thousands of jubilant Basotho gathered in the National Stadium on June 8, 2012, to witness something few believed could ever happen in Lesotho,  the first voluntary, constitutional transfer of political power in the nation’s history.  In his farewell speech, outgoing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of the DC party congratulated his chief rival and leader of the coalition government, Tom Thabane, of the ABC party, and promised a constructive role as leader of the “loyal opposition”.   In his Inaugural Address, the incoming Prime Minister of Lesotho, Honourable Motsoahae Thabane recalled that it was Mosisili who had given him his first ministerial post many years ago and thanked him. After transferring the flag of state, the two warmly shook hands and embraced twice, while the crowd roared in congratulations.