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
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.