Statement by U.S. Ambassador Rebecca E. Gonzales at the Bilateral Trafficking-In-Persons Dialogue

U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, Maseru, Lesotho, November 8, 2021:

Lumelang Bo-‘M’e le Bo-Ntate,

I would like to recognize the Minister of Home Affairs, Honorable Motlalentoa Letsosa, who is here with us today.

Good afternoon,

As the U.S. Ambassador to the beautiful Kingdom of Lesotho, I am honored to have had an opportunity to host this very important bilateral dialogue with the Ministers of Home Affairs, Police and Public Safety, and Justice and Law to review Lesotho’s progress and make recommendations to ensure concrete and achievable results on national trafficking-in-persons efforts.

I am joined today not only by those on the Embassy team in Maseru but also virtually by colleagues from the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in Washington and members from the U.S. regional security teams both here in Maseru and in Cape Town, who greatly contributed to our discussion.

As the U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho, I will continue to reiterate that combating human trafficking is a top priority for the United States government.  My team and I want to support the Government of Lesotho to make rapid progress toward achieving the recommendations in the 2021 TIP Report to avoid any assistance restrictions.  Today’s dialogue allowed us to jointly review the government’s progress on increasing anti-TIP efforts across Lesotho during this reporting period.  Time is of the essence.  We want to see Lesotho’s meaningful anti-TIP progress that would warrant an upgrade to Tier 2 by the end of February 2022 because this means that we will have supported the protection of crucial foreign assistance and the country’s proposed second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact.

At this time, allow me to offer my deep appreciation to the Minister of Home Affairs Letsosa for his leadership in taking critical and decisive action in working to address several vitally important human trafficking concerns.  His leadership has been instrumental in the government’s response to many of the issues I have raised over the last year – including the allocation of funding for shelter and protective services for victims of trafficking.  Working with key community partners, like Beautiful Dreams Society, the Government of Lesotho, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, he has started to prioritize the safekeeping of Lesotho citizens who have been victimized by traffickers.  Minister Letsosa has also engaged in extensive outreach to sensitize local communities and officials on the importance of preventing trafficking in persons.

I also want to thank Minister of Police and Public Safety Sekola for his engagement and collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers, including officials complicit in trafficking crimes.  Specifically, sustained efforts to fund the police trafficking and smuggling unit and to establish a focal point in all ten districts will ensure effective responsiveness to all potential trafficking cases in Lesotho.   Our team at the U.S. Embassy is committed to supporting these initiatives in partnership with the Ministry of Police under the umbrella of our newly signed Memorandum of Cooperation, and we have immediate plans to support the development of critical skills through law enforcement training and other professional development exchanges.

And as we work to ensure there are proper legal frameworks to prosecute and convict traffickers, we are grateful for Minister of Justice Rakuoane’s participation today to help us understand the next steps to advance key anti-trafficking in persons recommendations tied to jurisdictional issues.  I also appreciate Minister Rakuoane’s commitment to anti-corruption efforts which will be key in the Government of Lesotho’s efforts to ensure officials complicit in trafficking crimes are prosecuted.

Before I close, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude again to the government officials present here today and to reaffirm the U.S. government’s commitment to supporting sustained anti-TIP progress in Lesotho.  Following today’s very productive bilateral dialogue, I am confident that through demonstrated strong leadership and continued engagement, the Government of Lesotho will secure tangible achievements in combating human trafficking in the coming months.

Thank you.

Kea Leboha.