Billy Ntaote and Keiso Mohloboli
LESOTHO’S two biggest political parties have warned government against reinstating Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, insisting such a move would be met with fierce resistance and appeals to the international community.
Both All Basotho Convention (ABC) secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele, and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, yesterday said public statements by new Defence and National Security Minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, that Lt Gen Kamoli — who was fired on 29 August 2014 as LDF commander for alleged insubordination — were grossly irresponsible and meant to cause instability in Lesotho.
According to Mr Ntsekele, the ABC would not “stand by and watch” government undo all the hard work done by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in restoring stability to the kingdom, with Lt Gen Kamoli’s refusal to accept his dismissal by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, one of the reasons the country had found itself on the verge of civil war.
Mr Ntsekele also warned Democratic Congress (DC) leader and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili against making any decisions that contradict commitments the country’s political leaders made before the SADC Observer Mission in Lesotho (SOMILES).
One of those decisions, he added, was that Lt Gen Kamoli must not return to the LDF and that his replacement, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao should take over the post once he returned from special leave he was forced to take in November last year to allow peaceful elections on 28 February 2015.
In addition to Lt Gen Mahao, Lesotho Mounted Police Service Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, and Lt Gen Kamoli were also sent out of the country as SADC felt their continued presence in the country was not helping mend relations between the police and army.
According to Mr Ntsekele, the uncertainty that had come to haunt Lesotho at the height of the infighting between the ABC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy and BNP government, was slowly creeping back due to “reckless statements by people like Mokhosi who should know better.”
“As the ABC, we still take the SADC Observer Mission to be still in Lesotho despite winding up its operations on 31 March. South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was the SADC facilitator in resolving our differences, will soon be coming to Lesotho to see the progress the country is making as far as respecting all the agreements the political leaders signed, is concerned.
“That’s why I am saying what Mr Mokhosi has been saying about Lt Gen Kamoli’s reinstatement to the LDF command is nothing but wishful thinking because it’s not up to him or his party, the LCD (Lesotho Congress for Democracy), to decide because the issue has been settled at a much higher level.
“We would want to move on as a country and must not be diverted by a very short-sighted minister, who is busy telling the world something that is completely at odds with the truth.”
Mr Ntsekele further accused the LCD acting secretary general of “always creating problems”.
“Mokhosi’s only focus is causing conflict among Basotho and nothing else. He doesn’t have the interests of Basotho at heart, but always wants to see us fighting and never at peace. He was among the people who destroyed the LCD to become the shell that it is today, and now since he and his fellow LCD members have nothing to lose anymore, they will soon be infiltrating the DC and causing problems for Prime Minister Mosisili,” Mr Ntsekele said.
“The prime minister should be careful because very soon, he will be regretting forming a coalition government with the LCD because these people are very good at bringing disharmony in anything they are involved in. They put themselves ahead of national interests all the time.”
Warning Mr Mokhosi against making “unfounded” accusations against Dr Thabane — that the ABC leader allegedly brought disharmony between the police and army when he was premier as well as defence, police and national security minister — Mr Ntsekele said: “Mokhosi should know that our leader is not a playground upon which he can play his games. He should desist from attacking Dr Thabane as we will surely return the fire. He should consider himself warned.”
On his part, Chief ‘Maseribane said the BNP membership was “deeply disturbed” by Mr Mokhosi’s statements regarding the proposed reinstatement of Lt Gen Kamoli as LDF commander.
“It is a well-known fact that Kamoli is not a member of the LDF anymore as he was fired on 29 August 2014.
“As far as we are aware, he never challenged his dismissal before any court of law and the only reasonable conclusion one can draw from this is that he had accepted his removal. He knew very well that due process had been followed when he was fired by the then prime minister,” said Chief ‘Maseribane.
According to Chief ‘Maseribane, his party’s objection to Lt Gen Kamoli’s reinstatement was also based on his conduct while he was army boss.
“Prior to his dismissal, Kamoli refused to hand-over to the police, several soldiers who had been implicated in the killing of Lesotho citizens, as well as soldiers implicated in various bombings in Maseru. This man has no respect for the police and civilian authority.
“Again on 30 August 2014, Kamoli led an army assault on the prime minister’s residence, as well as the home of Lt Gen Mahao and various police stations in Maseru. A police officer was killed in the attack on one of the police stations. These are treasonable and illegal acts, which show that Kamoli has no respect for democracy and the rule of law. He is not fit to lead the LDF and any public office, for that matter,” said Chief ‘Maseribane.
‘”If Mosisili’s government is really serious about reforms in the army, which would contribute to peace and stability in this country, it is essential that the leadership of the LDF be in the hands of a person of integrity and that person is the current commander, Lt Gen Mahao.”
Chief ‘Maseribane further said in addition to Lt Gen Mahao, there are “hundreds of soldiers in the LDF and many credible and educated officers” the government could select as army commander.
“We call on the Lesotho government to select a person who will command the respect of the soldiers and the public at large and make him or her the LDF commander. This will be one of the steps needed to rehabilitate the army and repair its tainted reputation.”
The BNP leader also said the party had been further “disappointed” to learn from Mr Mokhosi that government wanted to demote Lt Gen Mahao to his previous rank of Brigadier.
“For the record, Lt Gen Mahao was duly appointed commander of the LDF on the 29th of August 2014 in terms of the LDF Act.
“The BNP wishes to advice the Prime Minister, Mr Mosisili, being the authority responsible for advising the King on the appointment and removal of the army commander, that it shall not only be irregular but also illegal to demote Lt Gen Mahao to the rank of Brigadier,” said Chief ‘Maseribane.
“Let us also take this opportunity to warn the government that any move to bring back Kamoli as LDF commander is going to be met with fierce resistance that would include lobbying international organisations and countrywide protests.”
Contacted for comment last night, Mr Mokhosi said he would respond to the ABC and BNP claims once he reached his home.
However, when the Lesotho Times called the minister 30 minutes later, he was not answering his phone.
But speaking on South African Broadcasting Corporation news on Sunday, Mr Mokhosi said Lt Gen Kamoli would soon be reinstated as LDF commander and Lt Gen Mahao revert to Brigadier.
Asked if he was aware of the minister’s statement, Lt Gen Mahao yesterday told the Lesotho Times: “The LDF Act of 1996 doesn’t provide for the Minister of Defence to promote, demote or appoint any army officer but His Majesty the King, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
“I didn’t watch the programme you are talking about; I only heard that the minister referred to me as Brigadier on the programme, but I have not received any official demotion from anyone.
“My Court Martial (in which he was being accused of acting in a manner unbecoming of an LDF officer) was lawfully cancelled and gazetted last year; my promotion was also gazetted. If the minister decides to ignore my promotion, he can’t demote me just like that but send me on early retirement.
“But that would be subject to what would be on offer in terms of the benefits.”