Remarks by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales On International Anti-Corruption Day: December 7, 2018

Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister

The Honorable President of the Senate

The Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly

Her Ladyship the Acting Chief Justice

The Honorable Deputy Prime Minister

Honorable Members of his Majesty’s Cabinet

His Lordship the President of the Court of Appeal

Their Lordships Judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal

Their excellencies of Diplomatic Mission and International Organizations

Honorable Members of the Senate and Principal Chiefs

Honorable Members of the National Assembly

Senior Government Officials

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to thank the United Nations for organizing today’s walk and events to mark International Anti-Corruption Day. My country is proud to stand with the United Nations, as we did in negotiating the UN Convention against Corruption, and to work together with multi-lateral organizations and bilateral partners. As many people today will discuss what corruption looks like, I would like to frame my remarks in terms of what the opposite of corruption looks like. The opposite of corruption is accountability and good governance.

Good governance is the foundation of a healthy society, a healthy country. Lesotho is to be commended for the advances it has made over the years to make government more responsive to the needs of its people. Hopefully, gone for good are the bad old days of traumatic instability and all of its associated ills.

The United States has recognized Lesotho’s progress by continuing its engagement in the form of AGOA, and of course, with renewed engagement by MCC.  It is well known that we have been a steadfast, committed partner to Lesotho’s success for more than half a century as demonstrated by the ongoing work of PEPFAR, Peace Corps, USAID, CDC, and numerous other agencies.

With the prospect of a second MCC Compact based on a demonstrable commitment to good governance and the reforms process, we all must ask ourselves, “What is at the foundation of good governance?”  There is no simple answer to this complicated question, but one principle that I urge you to consider is that of a government’s accountability to its people, from all political parties, from all levels of society.

Mr. Prime Minister, on September 14, 2018, at a rally in Mafeteng, you rightfully declared a state of emergency on corruption and criminality. Your promise to increase resources to fight corruption and criminality is a commitment welcomed by the people of Lesotho and your international partners.

Under your leadership, there has been notable progress on a number of fronts. The LDF can be proud of its efforts to solidify civilian rule of the military.  The Ministry of Finance can be proud of its efforts to promote fiscal responsibility. Mr. Prime Minister, you are on the cusp of leading your country into a historic reforms process.  Yet, a leader of a country must always strive to make more progress; there is always more work to be done as a servant of the people and the nation.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have been outspoken about bringing accountability to Lesotho. It is for this reason that the nation looks to you as a champion against corruption. To do that effectively, you need the support of institutions dedicated to accountability in Lesotho. Durable institutions are a legacy that can fortify your nation for generations to come.  Progress made as a result of reforms needs to be protected.

At the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue held November 26-28, there was abundant discussion of Lesotho’s various oversight bodies. They are the foundation of accountability in Lesotho. These watchdogs of public interest must not be toothless. For these bodies to be effective in their protection of Lesotho, they need two things:  1. Sufficient resources and 2. Genuine independence to conduct their work.

Mr. Prime Minister, Honorable members of the Cabinet, it is every government’s duty to ensure that these institutions have the tools they need in order to be robust partners. It is up to you to empower these institutions so that investments by all international partners and the Government of Lesotho are protected and make their intended impact.

The leaders of Lesotho’s institutions of accountability need to be able to declare with confidence that they have the necessary resources and independence to do their work for the people of Lesotho. Having such assurance in place is essential for the United States to consider potential future investment from MCC that will reach into every corner of this beautiful country and help all Basotho.

Thank you.  Khotso, Pula, Nala.