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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

Spotlight Lesotho Key data n Capital: Maseru n Land area: 30,355 sq km n Population: 2,074,000 (2013) n Ethnicity: Mostly Basotho, with a few thousand expatriate Europeans and several hundred Asians n Life expectancy: 49 years n School enrolment: 82% of children are enrolled in primary school n GNI: US$2.9 billion n Official language: Sesotho and English are official languages; Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken also killed by soldiers in June, with opposition parties and civil society telling Cyril Ramaphosa, South African Deputy President and SADC facilitator, that there were splits within the army and that the government did not seem to be in control of the armed forces. They spoke of a deteriorating security situation, saying that ordinary people – and some soldiers – were in fear of their lives when Ramaphosa held talks in Maseru in June. Mosisili disputes claims that the government is not in control of the army, however, saying: “The army has no power or political ambition as far as we are aware. Therefore the relationship between the Coalition government and the army is strictly professional.” See page 15 for more of Mosisili’s views on the army. The killing of Mahao has caused particular concern among the international community, especially as it happened under the watch of newly reinstated lieutenantgeneral Tlali Kamoli who was head of the armed forces at the time of the alleged attempted coup in 2014. George Robinson, an international affairs consultant for MWW, a US-based communications agency, says: “Lesotho has never been politically stable, and election results have always been fraught with dispute. The death of Lieutenant- General Maaparankoe Mahoa, which spurred the latest round of unrest, was just ‘The US and EU have already said that if Lesotho does not sort out its problems, aid will be discontinued. One of the first steps could see Lesotho removed from the African Growth and Opportunity list’ another chapter in the long-running saga of Lesotho’s army being beyond any kind of legitimate control. The decision of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to reinstate Tlali Kamoli as Mahoa’s replacement after this was unforgivable, given that Kamoli is widely-believed to have staged the failed coup that led to elections earlier this year. It shows that Mosisili has little appetite to bring peace back to Lesotho.” The government initially agreed to a SADC-led Commission of Inquiry into the killing of Maaparankoe Mahao and other security issues in Lesotho. Botswana Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi is chairing the enquiry. However, the government has been largely boycotting the enquiry, unhappy that so many of the hearings have taken place in South Africa, where Thabane and various exsoldiers remain in exile. “Given the power that the army holds, bringing it back into line will be no easy matter,” cautions Robinson. “Sadly, many feel that sanctions are now the only viable answer. The US and EU have already said that if Lesotho does not sort out its problems, aid will be discontinued. One of the first steps could see Lesotho removed from the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This should be a last resort, however, as the people hurt the most by this will be Lesotho’s rural poor.” In a country where many people live below the poverty line, political instability does nothing to raise the standard of living and diverts the focus of the government of the day from dealing with some of the every day concerns that affect the lives of the population. One in five people in Lesotho don’t have access to a source of improved drinking water and 70 per cent have to live with inadequate sanitation facilities – a similar situation to other developing countries in the region. Only 64 per cent of children complete primary school. Access to health care is limited in the most remote areas, though a network of hospitals, clinics and health centres provide basic facilities across most of the country. The country looks to have failed to meet its Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child mortality, which sought to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 and reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters in the same timescale. Just 62 per cent of births were attended by qualified health staff in 2009 – again this is not dissimilar conditions in other lower middle-income countries, but the UN was aiming for this figure to reach 100 per cent in all countries by 2015. But the health statistic that stands out the most is that life expectancy is a shockingly low 49 years, due to the spread of AIDS. “Little is done about the country’s crippling AIDS problem,” adds Robinson. “It is famously said that there are two types of people in Lesotho: those infected by AIDS and those affected by it.” Mosisili blames the escalation of the AIDS crisis partly on the previous government (see page 16). Robinson, however, thinks that poverty is the underlying reason why AIDS has such a grip on Lesotho, when other African countries have had more success in stemming the number of deaths. “AIDS is exacerbated by food insecurity, with much of the population having to choose between putting food on the table or buying medication,” he says. “This is a vicious cycle, with Aids killing many farmers, meaning that the food crisis only gets worse. Charities like Sentebale are left to fill in the gaps, but they can only do so much.” www.global global four th quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 21


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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