Remarks by H.E. Paola Amadei at the Members of Senate Workshop on the Omnibus Constitutional Bill (11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill)

(Source: EEAS)

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I present my respects to His Majesty, King Letsie III, and Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate

The Right Honourable, The Prime Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro,

The President of the Senate, the Honourable ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi,

The Vice-President of the Senate, the Honourable Tšepo Monethi,

The Honourable Minister for Justice and Law Adv. Lekhetho Rakuoane,

The UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Amanda Khozi Mukwashi

The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms Nessie Golakai,

Representatives of Government Ministries and other National entities

Representatives of UN Agencies and other Development Partners

Representatives of Civil Society Organisations,

Representatives of the media

Bo-‘M’e le Bo-Ntate,

Allow me first to thank the UN and in particular the UNDP for organising this three-day workshop with the Honourable Members of the Senate of Lesotho to inform on the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, the so-called Omnibus Bill. I would like also to thank the President of the Senate, the Honourable ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi, and the Vice-President of the Senate, the Honourable Tšepo Monethi, for accepting to engage in this exercise and for continuously manifesting their commitment to the reforms.

You, Honourable Senators of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, alongside the Honourable Members of the National Assembly, are tasked with the crucial role to debate and adopt the changes to the Constitution that have been drafted by the National Reforms Authority over the last two years.

The passing of the Omnibus Bill is a crucial step in advancing the National Reforms Process, allowing its implementation after a process that stretched over many years and saw the involvement of the whole nation.

Extensive and inclusive consultations allowed Basotho in the country and in the diaspora to have their voices and opinions heard, to shape the future of their nation and to avoid a repeat of past crises. It was the task of the National Reforms Authority to transform the reform proposals formulated as a result of the national consultations into the legal texts submitted to Parliament.

The reforms are a promise for a better future. More political stability, transparency and accountability of governance are all positive outcomes of the National Reforms Process. An overall positive development in a time when we see growing tendencies of authoritarianism not only on the continent but also in the world as a whole, which Europe had to experience first-hand through the ongoing,  unwarranted and cruel attack by Russia on Ukraine.

The United Nations Development Programme and the European Union have been and continue to be steady partners of the Basotho nation on its path of national reforms, providing political and financial support. Support has been provided to facilitate public meetings during the dialogue process and to fund the National Reforms Authority in its work of legal drafting and outreach. Only in the last two years, the financial support has been just under LSL50.000.000.

As the United Nations Development Programme and the European Union, we are committed to continue to support Lesotho and its National Reforms Process, alongside other areas of cooperation such as water and energy. In the current cooperation strategy, the EU has reserved up to LSL67.000.000 to support the Basotho in the implementation of new constitutional changes and laws.

I am deeply concerned, however, by the perspective that the Parliament might fail to adopt the reforms before the dissolution of both the Senate and the National Assembly. Lesotho is now at a point where failure of approval will not simply mean a further delay but potentially an end of the process without anything or little to show. The reform process shall represent the legacy of this Parliament and the incumbent Executive. To delegate to the next Government and lawmakers the adoption of the reforms has serious implications for the nation as the country will face a new legislative period with rules that proved to be inadequate in the past and that exposed the country to instability and violence.

After the dissolution of the Parliament and the General Election, it is not clear if a new Government will take over and focus on the National Reforms Process. Even when adopted, their implementation would be rolled over and be effective only under a new mandate. Citizens have been impatient to see the implementation of the reforms. As lawmakers, I urge you to deliver on the oath that you gave to serve the citizens.

The programmes of cooperation of the EU in the country are underpinned by the reforms and will be affected, should the reforms not go ahead as promised.

All leaders of political parties represented in the National Assembly subscribed to a public pledge on 27 May, witnessed by the Honourable Prime Minister and by the SADC facilitator, in which they committed themselves to advance the reforms. Will they disregard this pledge?

It is not the time to use the National Reforms process for either personal or political gain. We are aware and understand that the upcoming General Election and the time leading up to it is a time of democratic competition between parties. It is a contest of ideas and beliefs, but partisan calculations should not affect the completion of the National Reforms Process and sap the credibility of Lesotho institutions before the nation and the international community.

There are few opportunities when one can feel their actions can make a difference and be part of history. This is one of these opportunities and we should not miss it.

KHOTSO! PULA! NALA!

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