(The following piece was published Sept. 16 by AFP, the French news agency.)
Lesotho may head to the polls soon in an attempt to restore political stability, as the country’s leadership crisis appears to be intensifying.
by Stephanie Findlay with Michael J. Jordan in Maseru
PRETORIA, September 15, 2014 (AFP) – Lesotho’s leaders plan to head to the polls early to restore political order following stalled peace talks between deadlocked political parties.
As a result of the coalition government not being “fully functional”, Lesotho’s leaders are planning to “shorten the mandate of the coalition,” said South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Monday.
Lesotho is currently due to hold elections in 2017. The country should now focus on “free, fair and incident free democratic elections for a fresh mandate,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.
After weeks of failed talks, South Africa hosted an emergency meeting of regional leaders to negotiate a peace deal for Lesotho.
South African President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, chairperson of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), sat down with Lesotho’s leaders to hash out a solution after rival party leaders failed to patch up their differences.
Along with the early election date – to be announced “as soon as possible,” according to Nkoana-Mashabane – SADC said it will send an observation mission, led by South Africa and including Zimbabwe, to Lesotho for three months to ensure peace and stability.
“Are we deploying soldiers to Lesotho or Kingdom of Lesotho as SADC? The answer is, ‘No’,” said Nkoana-Mashabane. “They need to go back to the electorate,” said the minister, “but they need to be assisted so that political challenges don’t get mixed up with the security challenges.”