SADC finalises standby force deployment

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Pascalinah Kabi

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) is formulating the rules of engagement for its 1 200-strong standby force headed for Lesotho starting next Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the modalities of the force’s deployment were being worked out.

He indicated that it was unlikely that the force would be deployed at the same time, since some countries were still in the process of approving, while others had finalised.

“We are expecting the deployment of the SADC standby force on the 1st of November. I am not yet aware of the force’s specific rules of engagement,” Mr Moleleki said

“But I think SADC is working on the force’s rules of engagement. On our side, we are expecting the deployment to commence next week.

“There is no way that the many countries expected to deploy soldiers can send them all on the same day, but we are expecting it to begin on 1 November.

Last week, Namibia approved the deployment of 250 soldiers to Lesotho as part of the standby force set to consist of 1 099 troops, 30 civilians, 34 police officers, one pathologist, four scuba divers and a police mobile unit.

The reported US$$6.7 million (about M95.3 million) cost of deploying the standby force will be incurred by the regional body.

Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister, Manuel Augusto, visited South Africa on Tuesday to brief the bloc’s chairperson and South African President Jacob Zuma of the situation on the ground ahead of the deployment.

Mr Augusto’s visit to Pretoria came in the wake of a meeting he held last week with Lesotho’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi in Luanda, Angola.

Mr Makgothi visited the country seeking answers from SADC after the bloc’s defence chiefs earlier this month decided to dispatch a third security assessment mission to Lesotho.

They also deliberated on the findings of a 40-member SADC technical assessment team that was in Lesotho between 24 and 28 September 2017.

The Defence Sub Committee comprises of army commanders from all of SADC’s 14 member states. It met earlier this month in Luanda to deliberate on the findings of the SADC technical assessment team.

The team had been dispatched by a 15 September SADC Double Troika Summit to assess the security situation in Lesotho after the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

The summit approved Lesotho’s request for a standby force consisting of military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF in managing the security crisis in the country in the aftermath of the assassination and during the implementation of security sector reforms recommended by the regional body.

However, SADC later notified the government that a third mission was coming to Lesotho. Maseru refused to allow the third mission, whose visit had been scheduled for 18 October, to come to the country.

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