Respect rights of citizens

Respect rights of citizens

THE killing of a villager at Kao Diamond mine in Butha-Buthe last Friday is yet another vivid illustration of what is wrong with Lesotho’s police.
The tragic killing lays bare the severe limitations facing our police and the need for corrective measures to fix our security services.
It is also, sadly, another confirmation that our police are trigger-happy.

The villagers were protesting against the mine authorities after their demand to be relocated elsewhere was turned down.
The villagers were not happy that their houses were flooded as a direct result of mining operations.
The villagers then blockaded the roads and became violent, a move that incensed the police.
While the police say one of their own was attacked with a knife during the protest, we still insist that their reaction to the villagers’ protest went way overboard.

Two other villagers were critically injured during the riots.
Even in the face of naked provocation, the police could have handled this situation much better.
Other crowd control methods, such as the use of teargas and rubber bullets, should have been explored to disperse the crowd without loss of life. They need better training to handle crowds.

They also need more financial resources and training to equip them to deal with riotous crowds.
The loss of life is truly regrettable and was totally unnecessary. Our police need re-education to appreciate the sanctity of human life.
They must be taught the basic truth that life is sacrosanct.

We have argued in previous editorials that our police appear to be trigger happy. We insist that they are. Our police need an ideological reorientation. They need to be taught that policing is not about exerting force all the time.
The Butha-Buthe incident shows we need to move fast to shift the thinking of our police. Instilling a culture of respect for human rights must be at the core of any new police training curriculum.

At the same time, we are pleased with the decisive manner the government has handled the aftermath of the tragedy.
The swift condemnation of the police action will send an unequivocal message to the police that any abuse of power will be punished.

The police should understand that they will not be allowed to get away with it. Whoever pulled the trigger must face the full wrath of the law.
Politicians must be careful that they do not appear to be giving the police a blank cheque to violate the rights of citizens.
They must send the right message about the protection of the rights of every Mosotho.

We also think it would be prudent for Kao Diamond Mine and any other company operating in Lesotho to plan how to manage a crisis of significant proportions of this nature. The mine appears to have been caught off-guard.
It must come up with efficient programmes to resolve disputes with communities. Disputes must never be allowed to degenerate to the levels of shocking violence that we saw last Friday.

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