Establish an independent board to probe Maseru bombings or forget about army cooperation
The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli has called for the establishment of an independent body to investigate the simultaneous bombing of three Maseru homes on the night of 27 January this year.
Unknown assailants attacked the home of Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana in Ha Abia and those of Liabiloe Ramoholi and her neighbour, ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane, in Moshoeshoe II on the night in question.
However, as part of investigations into the attacks, the police would want to interview eight LDF members, but Lt Gen Kamoli has refused to surrender the soldiers, souring relations between the two security agencies.
The LMPS has since publicly expressed frustration at the LDF’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation by releasing the soldiers for questioning.
However, addressing a media conference at the Makoanyane Barracks on Tuesday this week, Lt Gen Kamoli said he was calling for an independent probe into the bombings because in his view, “the investigation was bungled from the onset”.
“I’ve consulted with and advised relevant stakeholders that an independent Board of Inquiry into the bombings should be established,” said Lt Gen Kamoli. “This is because this matter was not handled properly from the very beginning and I’ve extensively consulted and discussed this on relevant platforms.”
Lt General Kamoli — who was in the company of LDF Deputy Commander, Major General Khoantle Motsomotso, Head of Personnel-Human Resources, Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Brigadier Ramanka Mokaloba, Brigadier Kaibe, who heads the LDF finance department, and the LDF Legal Advisor, Major Bulane Sechele — also suggested the police could take the “legal route” in the event the board of inquiry was not established.
“If the Independent Board of Inquiry is not set-up, then the police should simply have the eight soldiers brought before the courts of law without expecting the military to help them detain the suspects.
“For the purpose of maintaining good relations between the LMPS and LDF, we say it’s either an Independent Board of Inquiry or we go the legal route,” Lt General Kamoli said.
The army commander also said he was not going to “babysit” those who were not competent enough to carry out their duties.
“I don’t arrest people but only arrest soldiers using the Military Police (MP), on issues pertaining to the LDF,” he said.
“My job is not to babysit other people’s ministries; I work for the LDF.”
The LDF commander also emphasised the army felt “judged” by the public and dismissed any notion that the military supported criminals.
“We believe we were judged unfairly and prematurely but at the same time, we believed it was because people did not know any better,” he said.
“At least now people know our position and I wish to also make it known that we only maintained our silence for a long time to protect the dignity of our country.”
The LDF boss also said although he did not want to talk about it, the public might as well know he was aware of the “talk around town” that he was behind the bombings “because I wanted to kidnap Prime Minister Thomas Thabane”.
He added: “People have said I am behind the bombings and that I had sent Brigadier Mokaloba to execute the crimes because I wanted to kidnap the prime minister.
“How could I possibly want to abduct someone whose whereabouts I know and whose security I am responsible for? I am not scared of anything because I have nothing to hide.”
Addressing the same media conference, Major Sechele accused the police of having “adopted the bad practice of investigating crime using suspects, which is unacceptable”.
“To date, the suspects have not reported themselves to the police because the LMPS has no platform to interrogate suspects,” Major Sechele said, and referred to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act 1981, which he said did not give the police the right to interrogate suspects.
Major Sechele further said he had also heard the police were claiming to have sought a warrant of arrest for the eight soldiers, which he said was not possible.
“They can’t have acquired one without summons from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“This goes to show that the military is not respected as an institution and our silence makes people believe it is because we have nothing to say,” Major Sechele said.
Where matters of public interest are concerned, Major Sechele said, the Public Inquiries Act should be the guiding principle.
“Why is a Commission of Inquiry not being established? What is stopping its formation to deal with this issue?” Major Sechele asked.
Contacted yesterday on the LDF stance, a member of the Security Committee, Thesele ‘Maseribane, told the Lesotho Times no decision had been made yet on how best to handle the matter.
“Arriving at such a decision about establishing an Independent Board of Inquiry as suggested by Lieutenant General Kamoli cannot be done in the blink of an eye because we’re yet to engage him in talks.
“We’ve already had a one-on-one meeting with Commissioner Tšooana, and soon, we will be having a private meeting with LDF Commander Kamoli to discuss this issue,” Chief ‘Maseribane, who is also the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, said.
“But I can assure you that positions can change once we engage in negotiations. Discussing matters can lead to positions changing.”
Chief ‘Maseribane added because security issues are highly sensitive “we should not be hasty about getting things done”.
“It’s a process that needs to be treated with the sensitivity it deserves.”