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Ruling party proposes law that would hinder freedom of expression and association

(MISA/IFEX) - The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party is mulling over a new law that could deprive people of their freedoms, including freedom of expression and association. The Public Meetings and Processions Bill currently being discussed in parliament seeks to prohibit anyone from holding a public meeting without prior approval from chiefs, police personnel or relevant government officials. This proposed new law has caused chaos amongst leaders of Lesotho's opposition parties.

Many commentators believe the law seeks to minimise political party activity, particularly that of opposition parties. This law is believed to be an LCD strategy to tighten the screws amid a loss of popularity in the urban areas. According to renowned Lesotho political analyst Nthakeng Selinyane, the law "is made to restrict parties from holding gatherings like the All Basotho Convention (ABC), which holds gatherings literally every weekend."

Selinyane said the law infringes on peoples' freedoms. "What is it that warrants us having this law after all? We have had people asking chiefs for permission all along," he told MISA Lesotho.

Political parties have enjoyed free political activity since the coming to power of the Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) in 1993, which repealed all laws that prohibited free political party activities. Lesotho opposition parties operated under stringent conditions during the Basotho National Party (BNP) rule, which saw senior members of the then opposition BCP leaving the country in the early 1970s.

The military rule in the late 1980s saw a leveling of the ground for political party activities, which gave birth to the 1993 election, won by the BCP, which later split and gave birth to the LCD.

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