Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)’s work is to strengthen good governance and human rights protection in Lesotho. The Centre through its advocacy of the establishment of human rights commission facilitated a pre- national dialogue on the security reforms. Main focus institutions were the Lesotho Correctional Services, Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and National Security Services (NSS) of which they identified areas of concern in their respective institutions. Among the stakeholders invited were the EU Ambassador, US Ambassador, SAPMIL, civil society organizations and senior officials from the security institutions in Lesotho. The dialogue deliberated upon possible solutions and strategies the stakeholders proposed in order to strengthen the structures, appointments, mandate and integrity of these entities to ensure that they fulfill the objective of their establishments. This effort was made to ensure that Lesotho Security Forces are transformed into trustworthy entities that respect, promote and protect human rights effectively without being implicated in human rights abuses.
The dialogue was a reflection of the general security and human rights violations issues in the country and paved way for the envisioned security and human rights vanguards institutions post the reforms. Meaningful contributions were made which pointed the direction which the country must take as part of the national reforms agenda. It was deliberated that
- There is need to identify the responsibilities of the security forces. This will help solve the manipulation of these institutions by politicians and address the underlying issues.
- Experts’ views who will play a significant role should be informed by the citizen opinions and aspirations.
- The country needs to interrogate the problems caused by security agencies and the perpetual human rights violations. Do security agencies understand human rights? What actions are taken by the state where there are human rights violations?
- We also need to address the shared mandates of the security agencies and better define them. There should be clear lines of demarcation between the agencies.
- Politics have played a critical role in getting the country where it is, especially in the appointment of heads of security agencies. Appointment and removal of the heads of these agencies should be free of political influence.
- The civil service is politicized and so are the security agencies. At times members of these institutions are recruited from the constituency level. There should be guidelines for recruitment and it should be free from political influence.
- Human rights violations should be interrogated with an inclusive eye so that even the rights of members of these institutions are protected. The principle of universality of rights should be applied.
- Consideration of the role of civil society organizations in the security sector reforms as they are perceived as neutral and non-political actors
- Real reforms of the correctional services and their institutions, including the training and the working environment, should form part of the reforms
The International partners further pledged to assist and support the country in its reform agenda. However, the process should be inclusive, transparent and participatory. So it is very important to address the rights issues. But the issue of human rights should not be politicized to avoid international stakeholders using the issue as a reason for withdrawing their support for the processes. Lesotho needs to develop a culture of human rights.