Top soldier snubs inquest

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MASERU — A senior army officer who was on duty on the night of the April 22 attacks on Makoanyane military base and the prime minister’s residence has refused to appear before the commission of inquiry set up to investigate the attacks.
Sergeant Motsoto was the senior officer on duty and was in charge of the transport unit at Makoanyane military base when it was attacked by unknown gunmen on the night of April 22.
The commission which was set up by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to investigate the circumstances surrounding the attack wrote to Motsoto on 21 January asking him to appear before the commission.
In a letter dated January 25, 2010, Motsoto refused to appear before the commission saying doing so would prejudice his case which is before the court-martial.
“I wish to advise that I have already been charged in the court martial in relation to the same matter.
“Therefore I will not appear before the commission as my appearance before the commission will definitely prejudice me in my defence before the court martial,” Motsoto wrote.
According to a notice of appearance summoning him to appear before the commission, the commission said Motsoto was “the officer in charge of transport that night and in that capacity (he was) responsible for the safekeeping of keys to the vehicles at the transport unit”.
“You were supposed to ensure that there was a soldier or soldiers on guard at all times and to ensure that a soldier at the sentry was properly armed at all times by issuing a gun to him.
“You failed to ensure that there was a soldier at the sentry at all times. As a result, no one was at the sentry when the enemy attacked the base and you failed to issue guns as expected for the purpose of guarding,” the commission wrote.
The letter also said Motsoto had failed to “keep the keys in the vehicles in (safe) custody such that the keys were found in the ignitions of vehicles when the base was attacked”.
“You are therefore invited to appear before the commission if you so wish, to contradict the facts or allegations made against you,” wrote the commission.
The chairman of the commission Justice Johan Steyn said Motsoto was exercising his right in terms of the law when he refused to appear before the commission.
The commission began hearing oral evidence last week.
It was established to “inquire into, examine and analyse the precise nature, circumstances and factual setting of the attacks in the Makoanyane Base, the State House and some residents of the Maseru city on the 22nd April, 2009”.
Part of its brief is to establish “whether or not breaches/lapses of security and, if so, the extent, circumstances and nature thereof, including the identity of any person or body, if so, responsible for the same”.
It is also supposed to establish what security measures should be implemented to protect State House.
A group of armed gunmen stormed Makoanyane army base and stole guns and vehicles before attacking the State House in an attempt to assassinate Mosisili.
Two of the mercenaries were immediately arrested while four others died in a gun battle with members of the Lesotho Defence Force.
Ten other mercenaries were later arrested in South Africa as they attempted to flee.

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