- Lesotho's first ever democratically local government elections are due on Saturday, but there is very little, if anything at all, that shows Basotho would be polling to bring government closer to their villages. The greatest issue in the poll has been the earmarking of one third of electoral divisions for women, which is causing many men to boycott the elections.
The one third principle on women empowerment has been the issue causing most noise and debates in Lesotho as the kingdom organises its first local elections. It has caused test cases in court on the discriminatory nature of the empowerment clause in the Local Government Elections Act. Apart from that, nothing seems proof enough that there will be an election in Lesotho over the weekend.
Asked by the independent weekly 'Mopheme' on Monday morning, many of those asked if they were going to take part in the elections were negative. "What elections? I thought they were only for women," said one old man mockingly.
A self-employed woman who claimed she had registered to contest for the elections was even more shocked, saying she hadn't realised it was so soon. "You mean, this very Saturday?"
Small political rally campaigns and meetings were held in several villages of the mountain kingdom, it was reported. But, many of them just attracted a handful of people.
During the last recent by-elections for Lesotho's National Assembly, there was a lot of voter apathy, even challenging the Independent Electoral Commission in Lesotho to make a woe-call to voters.
While many analysts may be of the opinion that any other election less than the national poll is less attractive to the Basotho people at large, what one may also want to argue is that, there was not enough done in the preparations to attract the nation into the local government polls.
What made things even worse was the setting aside of some electoral divisions to be contested exclusively by women. This created a lot of confusion, which by then, there was no time to clarify. The word of a "women election" meanwhile has become widespread.
Many of the villagers still think and believe that in those divisions where the one-third principle prevailed, women will just be nominated or volunteer themselves without any contest. Some even have the most weird understanding that at the women only divisions, only women are allowed to vote at the exclusion of men.
While observers expect voter apathy, the poll nevertheless is well-prepared. A three-man team of Commonwealth election observers is already in Lesotho to observe Saturday's local government elections. According to a statement from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the team "will observe the preparations for the local government elections, the polling, counting and results process and overall electoral environment."
Lesotho's local government elections will be held in 1,290 electoral divisions throughout the country where over 12,000 candidates will contest the elections. However, the future of the elections is bleak since seven intra-parliamentary opposition political parties have threatened to boycott them citing some discrepancies in the preparations for the elections.
The opposition parties have cited problems relating to the delimitation of electoral divisions, selection of electoral divisions reserved for women, failure of the Independent Electoral Commission to provide political parties with voters' lists during nomination day and absence of regulations detailing implementation procedures of relevant electoral statutes as some of the reasons that may drive them to boycott the elections.
Negotiations between the seven opposition parties, government and the Independent Electoral Commission during which the parties sought postpone of elections by three months hit a rock last week. The Independent Electoral Commission and government refused to postpone elections on the grounds that preparations for elections were made with full consultation and cooperation of all political parties.
- I really do not see any issues that can warrant postponement of elections, Leshele Thoahlane, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission told journalists recently. "In terms of preparations we have done everything and have taken everybody on board. There are no reasons that can warrant postponement of elections," he added.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.