Freedom in the World
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In recent years, political instability and accompanying violence have severely hampered the country’s development, as has an ongoing drought. Corruption is rife in all sectors of government and public services. Customary practice and law restricts women’s rights in areas such as property, inheritance, and marriage and divorce.
- The year was marked by politically motivated assassinations and attempted assassinations against journalists, academics, and political figures.
- In November, Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) head Tlali Kamoli, who many see as a primary instigator of the country’s security challenges, was forced into early retirement.
Lesotho remained in crisis in 2016, with politics entangled in disputes among factions of the LDF. Politically motivated assassinations and assassination attempts continued with impunity. In June, the daughter of a lawmaker with the All Basotho Convention (ABC) was shot dead. In October, the editor in chief of the Lesotho Times was shot four times, but survived. In May, the home of Mafa Sejanamane, an academic and prominent government critic, was shot at, though he was not injured in the attack. The ongoing violence has cast a chill over political discourse in the country.
As of October 2016, the police had yet to take statements from the family of Maaparankoe Mahao, the former leader of the LDF who was killed in 2015 amid murky circumstances; the defense minister claims that Mahao was killed in an operation to arrest him on charges of mutiny, but the opposition and civil society groups have labeled his death an assassination. Notably, police had yet to contact Mahao’s two nephews, who were in the car with him at the time he was shot.
In November, LDF head Tlali Kamoli, who many see as a primary instigator of the country’s security challenges and who some suspect of ordering Mahao’s killing, was forced into early retirement.
A devastating drought has gripped the country for the last several years, resulting in a heavy reliance on imported foodstuffs that has strained public finances. Lesotho is one of the world’s largest per capita recipients of overseas development aid, with some 11 percent of national income derived from such assistance. The ongoing political instability in the country threatens the aid’s continuance.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Lesotho, see Freedom in the World 2016.