8-9 Mar 2016
Given the tense political situation Lesotho, it was initially anticipated that hosting a political party benchmarks dialogue (see Benchmarks for Enhanced Political Party Performance for Democratic Governance in Africa) would not be possible given the contentious nature and character of discussions that usually ensue. However, the situation stabilised sufficiently to host the event in Maseru. The significance of being able to host a political party benchmarks dialogue in Lesotho should not be underestimated since the dialogues have a tendency to be volatile, especially in conflict situations as they raise uncomfortable issues about the political and governance systems in each country.
Using the material developed in 2015 and refined from experiance in South Africa and Botswana, the dialogue was held on 8 and 9 March 2016 in Maseru, Lesotho. Though the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) and erstwhile ruling party did not attend fragments of its partners in opposition coalition did. Fifteen participants, six of whom were women, from six political parties, including the current ruling Democratic Congress (DC) as well as the Patriotic Front for Democracy (PFD), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), Lesotho Workers party (LWP), Basutoland African National Congress (BANC) and the All Democratic Corporation (ADC) attended. Out of the 15 participants,nine were below the age of 35 and six were women.
The dialogue focused on the nature of the political system and current political impasse. It was noted amongst many participants that the roots of political conflict is the Constitution and the excessive concentration of powers in the Executive with inordinate powers conferred on the Prime Minister. In the absence of the Constitution spelling out shared powers between the Prime Minister and the President in the context of forced coalition governments was a significant part of the problem.
The workshop was thus able to tease out key problems that serve to entrench a conflictual environment. While the absence of the main opposition was a weakness of the dialogue, it was felt that some of their views were represented by member parties that form a part of the opposition coalition which were present, and the information gleaned was sufficiently rich not compromise the integrity of the report produced.
Using Managing Intra-party and Inter-party Conflict in Lesotho: Training Manual EISA and the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) jointly conducted five training workshops in the districts of Maseru, Berea, Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong, focused on thematic areas such as gender representation in political parties, internal organisation, management and functioning of parties, leadership qualities within political parties as well as conflict and conflict management. About 150 participants from 13 out of the 19 registered parties in Lesotho attended these workshops.
EISA conducted a training workshop for political parties in Maseru in October 2008 based on the Promoting Intraparty Democracy in Lesotho: Training manual. The training aimed at assisting parties in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict. The workshop was attended by senior party leaders from the 19 registered parties, the IEC and the UNDP.
Three training manuals, Managing Intra-party and Inter-party Conflict in Lesotho: Training Manual and Promoting Intraparty Democracy in Lesotho: Training manual for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as well as for the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).
Political Parties Programme Handbook was published as a tool for the development of country specific training manuals and presentations can be developed. Two of the six modules were coalitions/alliances, and conflict management. Activities carried out in 2008 focused on workshops for ruling and opposition parties in Lesotho, South Africa and Sudan through partnerships with the Netherlands Institute for Multi-party Democracy (NIMD), the University of Bergen (UiB), and the Swedish Christian Democratic International Centre (KIC).