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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09MASERU243
2009-07-21 15:20:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Maseru
Cable title:  

OPPOSITION COMMITS TO PEACEFUL STAYAWAYS, ACKNOWLEDGES

Tags:   PGOV  LT 
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VZCZCXRO2558
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHRN
DE RUEHMR #0243 2021520
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211520Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY MASERU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4278
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHMR/AMEMBASSY MASERU 4707
						C O N F I D E N T I A L MASERU 000243 

SIPDIS

FOR AF/S AND INR/AF

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/21/2019
TAGS: PGOV LT
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION COMMITS TO PEACEFUL STAYAWAYS, ACKNOWLEDGES
POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE

REF: MASERU 241

CLASSIFIED BY: Elizabeth C. Power, Deputy Chief of Mission.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: Opposition leader and head of the All Basotho
Convention (ABC) Tom Thabane told CDA that he and his party
members were committed to peaceful stayaways beginning August 3.
He does admit that there is a possibility of violence if the
government cracks down during the stayaway period, which he says
will go on indefinitely, until the GOL responds to the
opposition demands to address the allocation of proportional
representation seats as a result of the 2007 election. Thabane
also stated that he doubts the GOL's theory about who was behind
the April assassination attempt on the Prime Minister, although
he did not offer any alternative theory. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) In a frank and cordial meeting with CDA on July 21, ABC
leader Tom Thabane discussed the end of the SADC sponsored
dialogue to resolve issues surrounding Lesotho's 2007
parliamentary elections. The two primary issues addressed by
SADC's mediator, former president of Botswana Ketumile Masire,
were necessary reforms to election laws to close loopholes
allowing informal alliances, and the improper allocation of
proportional representation seats as a result of such informal
alliances. According to Thabane, the GOL and he had agreed on a
road map to close loopholes and essentially redo the elections
within 18 months of the dialogue process, but the GOL later
reneged on its agreement and disavowed that road map. Since
that time, the GOL had been "stubborn and inflexible;" Thabane
likened the governing Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to a
"playground bully," who exerts control simply because he can.



3. (C) When discussing the LCD, Thabane also mentioned that as
a member of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, he had
seen many instances of theft and contracting malfeasance, in
which government tenders were offered inappropriately to the
Prime Minister's relatives. Indicating these charges and the
issues of GOL inflexibility on the 2007 elections issues, he
stated that the USG and other donors should intervene "as one
does with a stubborn child," threatening to take away programs
and money if the GOL did not behave properly. He cited
President Obama's Accra speech, saying that one cannot simply
sprinkle elections into a general pattern of corruption and
bribery and call that a democracy.



4. (C) Thabane indicated that except for the LCD, all of the
11 political parties currently represented in parliament
supported the planned stayaway scheduled to start on August 3,
assuming that the LCD does not meet the parties' demand that the
IEC file a petition before the High Court requesting the
redistribution of the proportional representation seats
(reftel). He said that the stayaway will extend indefinitely,
until their demands are met, and will be peaceful, noting that
his followers are disciplined and will not incite any violent
incidents. Thabane did acknowledge that there is the potential
for violence depending on the GOL's reaction to the stayaway;
with tension and passions running high on this issue, "the
government is likely to react foolishly."



5. (C) When questioned about the April assassination attempt,
Thabane expressed doubt that Makotoko Lerotholi had been
involved in the attack, stating that he left Lesotho in 2007
after being tortured by the army and had not returned. Thabane
said that we "must dig deeper to uncover the plot," as there
were still many unexplained elements of the attack, such as the
attackers' ability to obtain an armored vehicle from the
military barracks. While discounting Lerotholi's involvement
and stating that he had no knowledge of Jesse Ramakatane's
possible motive for being involved, he did not offer any of his
own theories of who might have been behind the attack.



6. (C) COMMENT: Thabane's reassuring statement about having
disciplined followers who would not act violently against the
GOL goes against his statements earlier this year that while he
was committed to peace, he could not control his followers.
Recent history indicates that there may well be some violent
incidents related to the stayaway; during the May 2008 taxi
stayaways, there were two shootings - both of them by
government-contracted drivers. During Thabane's July 19 rally,
where he announced the stayaway, he stated that it would be
"enforced." In the past, this has meant that vigilante-style
armed party members have roamed the streets to harass anyone
walking, traveling in a vehicle, or conducting business.



7. (C) COMMENT continued: Post is preparing for the stayaways
to begin August 3, and in the meantime will continue meeting
with all stakeholders. CDA has been unable to meet with LCD
Secretary General and Minister of Communications Metsing. He is
rumored to be meeting with SADC representatives to plead the
GOL's case, although post believes he is in Swaziland for a
scheduled meeting of the SADC Inter State Politics Diplomacy
Committee. Post will continue to report on developments on this
issue.

POWER