ARMY commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli on Monday said the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) was committed to upholding democratic rule and serving civilian authorities.
Lt-Gen Kamoli made the remark at the memorial service of former LDF commander and Military Council Chairman Major-General Phisoana Ramaema who passed away on 11 December at Makoanyane Military Hospital.
According to Lt-Gen Kamoli, the nation was indebted to Major-General Ramaema as he handed power to civilian authorities in 1993 when he could have continued with military rule which had begun in 1986 with the overthrow of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan by Major-General Metsing Lekhanya.
But after toppling Maj-General Lekhanya in 1991, Major-General Ramaema decided to handover power to a democratically-elected government of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in 1993. During his tenure, Maj-Gen Ramaema decriminalised political activities in Lesotho, paving the way for democracy which the country enjoys to this day.
In his eulogy at the Evangelical Church Mabote Parish, Lt-Gen Kamoli said Major-General Ramaema served Lesotho with honour, and deserved the gratitude of the entire nation.
“Today is a sad day as we have lost a father of the disciplined forces of Lesotho. I first met Maj-Gen Ramaema in 1983 when I arrived at the LDF as a recruit. I knew him as a man who loved his job very much; a man who made follow-ups on all the orders he issued to his subordinates. He could end up doing so many jobs all by himself to ensure that all was well within the army.
“From the day he became Chairman of the Military Council, he would be insulted all the time by his detractors, some of them very young children. I should tell you that I was there in 1986 when the military took control of the state and government.
“However, the army was not interested in ruling Lesotho; the interest was to prepare for a democratically elected government of civilians. That’s when he became famous for saying his vehicle didn’t have a reverse gear when it came to bringing democratic rule to Lesotho,” Lt-Gen Kamoli told the mourners.
The army chief recalled that he was a corporal when Maj-Gen Ramaema made the bold declaration that would immortalise him among his people.
“Maj-Gen Ramaema never had a reverse gear in his command and we, in the LDF today, are still following that same principle when it comes to our civilian authorities and safeguarding our democracy,” Lt-Gen Kamoli said.
“As the LDF command, we are still committed to democracy as Maj-Gen Ramaema showed by handing over power to civilian rule. We are committed to civilian rule and nothing else.
“We are an army that handed power to civilian rule and continues to function under civilian authorities to this day.
“I cannot deviate from a route that Maj-Gen Ramaema set us on way back in 1993, which is why I am committed to serving democratically elected governments. As the LDF command, we don’t have any ill-intentions and like I said, we are committed to civilian control.”
He also told the mourners that under his command, the LDF made sure Maj-Gen Ramaema received all the care he needed.
Maj-Gen Ramaema, he added, was treated at Makoanyane Military Hospital for various ailments but complained of severe chest pains and arthritis in the days leading to his death.
Lt-Gen Kamoli urged all former and serving LDF members to go for regular medical check-ups at Makoanyane Military Hospital “as it belongs to all soldiers”.
“When Maj-Gen Metsing Lekhanya set-up the hospital, it was due to pressure from one soldier who declined to be treated at Queen II Hospital after sustaining gunshot wounds from a 1986 battle, Lt-Gen Kamoli explained.
“That soldier said if there was no other hospital, he should be left to die because he didn’t want to be taken to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. Then with the help of South Africa, we were able to build a military hospital that we have since become proud of.
“I believe Maj-Gen Ramaema will be among the people who would be resurrected come Judgement Day as he guaranteed Basotho a return to democratic rule at a time many thought this was impossible.”