By T’soloane Mohlomi

MASERU – The Ministry of Justice recently convened a meeting with Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) and different Media houses in order to sensitize them on, The Support for the Reform and Strengthening of Governance in Lesotho Programme.

Funded to the tune of EUR 8, 5 million by the European Union Delegation to Lesotho (EU), through its 11th European Development Fund (EDF), the 4 year programme seeks to foster rule of law, good governance, human rights and gender equality in Lesotho.

The rationale behind the sensitization was with intent on accustoming the CS0’s and media houses to the design of the programme, its specific and overall objectives together with the outputs and intended impacts or benefits to the Basotho Nation.

With the specific main objective being, the relatability of the said stakeholders to the design, comprised with issues to be addressed, and the envisaged impact to Basotho in general, this particularly places a focus on the vulnerable and marginalized groups in the country.

Another specific objective as mentioned is to enlist support from CSO’s and media houses in order to ensure the publicizing of the programme to the wider public, and its intended benefits on access to justice and governance. The conference also aimed to determine the representation of the CSO’s at both the technical level and programme steering committee level, as per the design of the programme.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, Law & Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Seoaholimo Phorisi, also the Director of Planning within the Ministry, said having been entrusted by the government of Lesotho to supervise this programme, which in itself aims to benefit the most disadvantaged of all within the population through the promotion of human rights and gender equality among others: they found it befitting to invite the CSO’s and Media house because they are the ones who stood and represented the public.

“As the Ministry of Justice, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, we have been tasked with the supervising of this programme. This programme is aimed at increasing and improving access to justice. Seeing as we have called both the CSO’s and Media houses, we are confident that our message will be spread to all the ten districts of the country. So in planning ahead with our initial implementation date scheduled for November this year, we want the whole nation to be aware and know that such a project exists and is in action.

“Just to make an example about the issue of awareness of human rights; one of our aims is to see the relevant CSO’s helping us in educating the nation about human rights. We also want the nation to know where, and which offices they can approach when seeking help about issues relating to justice and the distribution of it thereof,” he said.

Mr Phorisi further mentioned that as the Ministry of Justice and Law, they wished to see the Legal Aid Office, which houses government lawyers, having a branch in all the 10 districts, this to ensure that disadvantaged people can be afforded proper legal representation.

In contrast to the CSO and media sensitization objectives, the programme in itself has four specific objectives, each with its own key results.

Specific objective number one of the programme aims to increase independence and performance of Justice and governance in sector institutions. This first objective is being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through a contribution agreement signed with the EU.

Specific objective two, aims to achieve efficiency and quality in Justice Service delivery. Key Result number 1 of this objective is to attain a revised legislative and regulatory framework following the main reforms undertaken, and other legal amendments and policy developments in relation to the programme. Key Result number 2 aims to see established mechanisms, with the intent of improving cooperation and coordination between criminal justice actors.

Result number 3 aims to increase capacities of justice actors to better administrate legal and judicial services, while Key Result 4 looks to enhance capacity of the Law Faculty of the University of Lesotho for training Lawyers, judicial officers, prosecutors and court personnel. Key Result 5, has the sole aim to ensure programme estimate is prepared and implemented efficiently and effectively.

Under Specific Objective number 3, the aim is to see improved access to justice for all, in particular for women, children and other vulnerable and marginalized groups. Under this objective, Key result 6, seeks improved understanding of adequacy of legal, judicial and institutional responses to right-holder’s needs.

Result number 7, aims to achieve an extended legal aid and legal representation  measures provided to indigents and groups in vulnerable situations, while Result 8 seeks increased use of diversion and non-custodial measures, mediation, rehabilitation and reintegration mechanisms for inmates (men, women and juveniles).

Specific Objective four, aspires increased accountability, integrity and credibility of justice and governance institutions. Result 9, under the objective, seeks developed performance and integrity framework for the judiciary following the institutional and legislative reforms undertaken or to be proposed under this programme.

Result 10, seeks strengthened technical capacities and professional skills of the Ombudsman, DCEO, OAG and Parliament to ensure they perform their oversight mandates effectively, while key Result 11, seeks improved governance functions and oversights mechanisms of the Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), OAG and Parliament.

The targeted institutions in the programme include the Ministry of Justice, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Judiciary, National University of Lesotho (NUL) Faculty of Law, DCEO, the Ombudsman, Parliament (National Assembly and Senate) and the Auditor General (AG).

“This programme supports the process of national reforms undertaken by the Kingdom of Lesotho, following the vision of The Lesotho we want. As the EU in Lesotho, we support a wide range of projects, including restoring water and land resources and renewable energy generation in Lesotho.

“Our belief is that none of this would be possible without strong accountable institutions which are transparent and inclusive hence our support for this programme,” said Mr Mario Varrenti, EU Delegation to Lesotho, Head of Cooperation.