Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Friday warned Basotho and foreign nationals who suggest Lesotho does not need an army.
Dr Mosisili said such negative sentiments come from people who are “lost” and do not appreciate the various roles played by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in different sections of society.
The premier insisted Lesotho “is a sovereign state and it’s up to us to know what we need and what we do not need because we fought for our independence”.
The prime minister, who made the remarks while addressing an LDF pass-out parade of 304 recruits at Makoanyane Military Barracks, pointed out in addition to its defence role, the army performs many other development functions hence its critical importance to the country.
“I would like to point out something shocking I have read from our publications and heard on our radios and there are even foreigners who speak the same language that Lesotho does not need an army,” Dr Mosisili said.
“Those are things said by people who are lost. Having been the Head of His Majesty’s government for four times now, I know the decision by Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan to form an army for Lesotho was the right one. Just like I have pointed out, the army does not just fight for our people through the use of arms, but also engages in many activities in other sectors of our economy.
“Basotho children should not be saying we do not need an army; such thoughts should not be coming from them. I also call to order foreigners who are saying we do not need an army; it’s not their concern whether we have an army or not.
“Lesotho is a sovereign state and it’s up to us to know what we need and what we do not need because we fought for our independence,” said Dr Mosisili.
“When our leaders said the British should leave our house, our forefathers made a statement I always remember—that it is better to misgovernment ourselves than to be governed well by others”.
The premier also urged the newly qualified soldiers to obey and live by the LDF code of conduct and be proud of their country.
“You heard your Commander talking about the tradition of keeping a promise. He said the Lesotho Defence Force will continue to keep peace and stability for Basotho under any circumstance.
“Men and women who are graduating today from the infantry, keep the tradition of keeping a promise. Do not agree to turn your back on your pledge, which is a promise to the Basotho nation that in the midst of all kinds of problems, you will keep your promise.
“Enter this army with the intention to build and not destroy the sense of unity, trust and patriotism to your country and keep peace and stability for Basotho,” said Dr Mosisili.
The prime minister then gave examples of what it means to be a loyal soldier and also the different functions the army carries out in society.
“Looking back a little bit, there were terrorist attacks here from 2007 to 2009 where we saw the Lesotho Defence Force confirm its reliability by thwarting heinous plots to assassinate ministers of His Majesty’s government and the Prime Minister.
“It was also just a year before last (August 30, 2014) when you heard the army explain that they uncovered and crushed a wicked plot to turn Lesotho into a bloodbath and also return us to the darkness of the 1970s.
“Even last year, wicked plots were uncovered and disciplinary measures are being taken against those who were behind the plot.
“Recently, the army responded to an outcry from our Melele people (Qacha’s Nek district people) who live under torturous threats from heavily armed criminals targeting their livestock. As I speak, those communities in the mountains have been protected and these operations have now been extended to other districts with the intention to curb livestock theft,” said Dr Mosisili.
The premier also reassured the nation that the seven-party coalition government was committed to reforms in the security sector. Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress formed a coalition government with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Popular Front for Democracy, Lesotho People’s Congress, Basotho Congress Party, Marematlou Freedom Party and National Independent Party after the 28 February 2015 snap election had resulted in a hung parliament. The Southern African Development Community has since recommended public and security sector reforms, among others, for Lesotho to realise its full development potential and political stability.
“We are going to make these reforms in line with our coalition government’s founding agreement and this also became part of the recommendations of SADC.
“We are proud to announce that public servants, in their different sectors, are working tirelessly towards ensuring the reforms are completed in a meticulous manner.”
For his part, Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi also noted the army contributed to the development of the nation through various ways.
The minister cited the LDF’s ongoing campaign with the Ministry of Health to promote voluntary medical male circumcision which helps fight the spread of HIV.
Mr Mokhosi added: “The Commander (Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli) has already outlined a number of these collaborations with other ministries towards the speed delivery of services to the general public. Another example is the operation towards fighting crime and the recovery of livestock from armed criminals.
“I acknowledge the commitment by the army to continue fighting crime like livestock-theft. We pride ourselves as the hub of livestock farming, and the army is protecting those farmers through these continuous operations.”