Gvt seeks to extend timeframe for SADC force

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…says the LDF is way behind in the implementation of the reforms agenda

Keiso Mohloboli

The government wants SADC troops to remain in Lesotho beyond their original six month mandate because the business for which they were deployed is not yet finished.

Ministry of Defence and National Security Principal Secretary, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae, says there is therefore no option but for the government to ask SADC (the Southern African Development Community) to extend the mandate of the regional body’s standby force in the Kingdom to enable the completion of all the work begun to help Lesotho curb perennial instability.

That work include the retraining of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) into a professional force. But it’s all way behind schedule now because the LDF had to put its house in order first, before any training could begin,  as well as re-establish cordial working relations with the police.

The SADC Standby Force, also known as the SADC Prevention Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL), was deployed to Lesotho on 2 December 2017 and is now in the fifth of its original six month mandate. The standby force is comprised of 217 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 13 civilian experts.

The SADC force was essentially deployed to prevent rogue LDF soldiers from destabilising Dr Thabane’s coalition as it went about implementing SADC recommended reforms to curb perennial instability in the Kingdom. The reforms include holding rogue LDF members accountable for their past atrocities and helping mould the LDF into a professional force via some targeted re-training.  The standby force would also help in the investigation of the 5 September, 2017 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi as well as the earlier killing of another LDF boss, Maaparankoe Mahao, among other tasks.

But with time running out on SAPMIL’s tour of duty Colonel  Mothae told the Lesotho Times this week that the SADC mission should be extended because it is only just beginning its work with the LDF.

Col Mothae said the LDF was lagging behind in terms of planned re-training programmes as well as the work towards reforming it to become a truly professional force.

“There are so many things that needed to be done by the LDF before we could even think of engaging in the reforms agenda. As a result, the LDF only started with a civilian-military co-operation seminar for warrant officers on Monday,” Col Mothae said.

While the army has been lagging behind, the SADC force has however, made huge strides in its work with Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) which has so far seen the re-training of police officers in forensic investigations.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Keketso Monaheng, said the forensic training course which was conducted in February was in line with the regional bloc’s quest to reform the LMPS and help Lesotho to achieve lasting peace and stability.

DCP Monaheng said the course would help improve the investigative capacities of the LMPS. Its officers would also apply their newly-found skills to investigating robberies, sexual offences, house-breaking, cybercrimes and scenes of explosions.

In addition, SAPMIL is working with the LMPS in the investigation of the June 2015 assassination of Lt-Gen Mahao by his army colleagues.

The Deputy Commissioner of SAPMIL Police Component, Joseph Shikongo, is also on record saying that SAPMIL has a mandate to assist in legislative reforms, mainly the amendment of the LDF Act of 1996 and the LMPS Act of 1998 to ensure the separation of powers between the two security institutions to avoid overlapping mandates which could give rise to conflicts.

He said the amendments should result in the LMPS assuming full responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, and discharge duties, “without fear or favour and irrespective of political affiliation, creed or religion”.

While SAPMIL has been working with the LMPS, Col Mothae said the army had to delay engaging SAMPIL until the LDF put its house in order and normalised previously strained relations with the LMPS.

In calling for the extension of SAPMIL’s tour of duty, Col Mothae said it had become obvious that the planned retraining of the LDF would not be completed within the current SAPMIL timeframe of six months.

“I don’t think the LDF will meet the target because it has been lagging behind. I am hopeful that the government will agree on extending SAPMIL’s stay in the country.”

Apart from the LDF issues, Lesotho is generally way behind in terms of the reforms timeline.

According to the government’s roadmap for reforms, national dialogue on the reforms should have been held by now and an agreement should have been reached on the reforms to the justice sector, among other things.

The roadmap further states that by the end of this month, the National Security Policy (NSP) of Lesotho should have been adopted and a National Security Council established.

“Legislation to clarify and harmonise security sector architecture in line with NSP/Security Sector Strategy (should have been) adopted.

“The legislative process should be preceded by multi-stakeholder discussions around the key topics that should be addressed in the law including the National Defence Act and the Police Act. The discussions should be informed by regional, continental and international best practice,” part of the roadmap states.

Meanwhile, the army began its training arrangements with the SAPMIL on Monday at Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, SAPMIL Commander, Brigadier Sabino Dunguionga, urged the LDF “to fully commit yourselves to the maintenance of peace and stability to ensure that Basotho people live in harmony”.

Brig Dunguionga said the army had a responsibility to jealously protect the country’s territorial integrity and assist the government to achieve its national development goals.

“The presentations that you will receive are designed to give an outline on how the military relates with all other sectors of government and society, to outline how the military role in relation to civil communities and how security forces coordinate in peace and wartime”.

She said a sound working relationship between the civilian and military leadership was vital to securing the state.

“Mutual trust is needed in three critical interfaces- among the civilian leaders, the military and the population,” she added.

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