The irony of the Millennium Challenge Compact financed by the American government, is that one of the indicators for eligibility is reduction of police brutality on the citizens, yet as the country was signing the second compact in Maseru last week, the rogue police officers were thrashing villagers of Ha-Salemone in the Thaba-Tseka.
Reduction of police brutality is one of 20 eligibility criteria that qualify the country’s enrollment in the MCC roster, but the infamous trend has been rocking the country and taking strides from year to another.
It is the MCC board that examines a country’s performance in 20 independent and transparent policy indicators and selects countries based on policy performance.
According to one villager who preferred to be kept anonymous for the sake of her protection, the horrendous scene emerged after the villagers showed dissatisfaction on the Dione Construction Company constructing the Polihali Western Access Road (PWAR), a newly paved A8 road in the vicinity of Ha-Seshote to Polihali in Mokhotlong district (54.3km).
She said the construction of the road passes through their village and disrupted an electricity line resultantly cutting-off of one of the main lines serving electricity to their area.
“Last week Wednesday an explosion from the construction cut-off an electricity line from the transformer and we were left with darkness, our fridges shutdown and life hard to bear,” she recalled.
She said they took measures and stopped the construction trucks and vehicles but the owner of the construction company was unfriendly and instantly phoned the police forces who are said to have responded with brutal force evening taking away the chief’s son.
“We told him the reason for our protest enquiring how soon he could fix the electricity line but instead he called the police who came and caught the chief’s son.
“They took him to the river where they assaulted him fighting sticks (mabetlela) while soaking him in the water before they took him to the police cell,” she said.
She said that about 40 of the villagers assembled on the following day, eager to seek answers in regard to the arrest of the chief’s son, little did they know what awaited them.
“We gathered together on the following day (Thursday) and decided to go to the owner of Construction Company to enquire why the son of the chief was arrested and sought them to fix our electricity.
“He didn’t answer but instead called the police and soldiers, who upon arrival asked no questions but instead started beating us. They said we should remove the stones on the road then we should roll like containers until we got to the river where they said we should roll in the water.
“They made us walk on tiptoes while holding our ears and beating us. Our bodies are swollen with beatings,” she said.
The onslaught by the forces was recorded on a video footage that soon thereafter made rounds on social media. On the video a number of the villagers are seen rolling in single file in the middle of a dirt road with armed officers on each end every so often stepping-in to inflict a kick, slap, lash while all the time spewing expletives at the villagers.
Thursday May 12, 2022 is the same day on which the compact was being signed in the capital Maseru.
In 2020 during the Millennium Corporation Challenge compact development grant agreement which was valued to the tune of $5.78million (M82 million) and signed at the Ministry of Finance headquarters, the then Ambassador of the United States of America, Rebecca Gonzales showed her concern about the alarming reports of corruption and police brutality in the country, emphasising that such behaviour was unacceptable and non-negotiable in as far as the scorecard for the signing of the second compact is concerned.
She said then she hoped the Lesotho government would work hard to ensure that the criteria issues of corruption and police brutality are addressed.
During the signing of the second compact at the National Convention Center that fateful day, the current US Ambassador Mary Brewer remarked that the government demonstrated its commitment to meeting the strict governance and legislative criteria to enable the compact.
She said the commitment resonates far beyond the MCC compact and that the actions lay a foundation of good governance and respect for the rights of all citizens of Lesotho.