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Commonwealth chief visits

Don McKinnon
Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon (SLENA)

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon arrived in Lesotho on Thursday for “consultations” with the government and opposition parties ahead of next year’s general elections, a spokesman told IRIN.

McKinnon is to hold discussions with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, government ministers, leaders of the multi-party Interim Political Authority (IPA), and the opposition, a Commonwealth statement said.

The Commonwealth spokesman said McKinnon’s one-day visit would allow him to get a “better briefing by talking to all the participants in Lesotho” on arrangements for general elections scheduled for May 2001. He added that measures to build confidence in the electoral process would be “one of the issues” to be discussed.

The Commonwealth, which has been closely involved in finding a solution to Lesotho’s political fragility following violence after disputed elections in 1998, has also appointed a representative to oversee preparations for next year’s poll.

The 1998 unrest and coup fears prompted South African and Batswana troops to intervene under the mandate of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Commonwealth, SADC and UNDP are working to “strengthen the independence and credibility” of a new Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Commonwealth statement said.

In June, UNDP launched a US $250,000 governance and democratisation programme to “assist the government of Lesotho to implement capacity building activities among supportive public institutions such as the public service, the army, the police and the judiciary to promote the rule of law,” the agency said. Part of the funds will go towards supporting the IPA - formed in the wake of the 1998 political upheavals - to promote “peace, reconciliation and political stability”. The IEC will also be assisted towards “consolidating Lesotho’s return to peace”.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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