ZAMBIAN Minister of Defence Davies Chama says while the Southern Africa Development Community’s (SADC) Standby Force in Lesotho has contributed immensely to the relative calm, the onus remains with Basotho to achieve lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
Mr Chama made the remarks during the recent ceremony in Maseru where Zambia took over from Angola as the head of the SADC Oversight Committee and SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL).
SAPMIL, also known as the SADC Standby Force to Lesotho, was officially unveiled in Lesotho on 2 December 2017 as part of regional efforts to foster a conducive environment for the implementation of constitutional, security sector, public service, media and governance reforms in line with the recommendations of the regional body.
The standby force is comprised of 217 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 13 civilian experts.
The SADC force was essentially deployed to prevent rogue Lesotho Defence Force soldiers from destabilising Dr Thabane’s coalition as it went about implementing SADC recommended reforms to curb perennial instability in the Kingdom.
The reforms include holding rogue LDF members accountable for their past atrocities and helping mould the LDF into a professional force via some targeted re-training.
The standby force would also help in the investigation of the 5 September, 2017 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi as well as the earlier killing of another LDF boss, Maaparankoe Mahao, among other tasks.
The standby force completed its original six-month mandate in May this year but this was subsequently extended to November this year to enable it to assist Lesotho in the implementation of the reforms which were recommended by SADC in 2016.
And with less than two months before the expiry of its tenure, Zambia has replaced Angola as the head of SAPMIL. This comes against the background of Zambian President Edgar Lungu assuming the chairship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation from Angolan President João Lourenço.
President Lungu subsequently appointed former Zambian Chief Justice Mathew Ngulube to replace Angolan Matias Bertino Matondo as the head of the SADC Oversight Committee. President Lungu also appointed Timothy Jim Kazembe as Head of SAPMIL.
Dr Matondo officially handed over the reins of the SADC Oversight Committee and SAPMIL at a ceremony that was held at the SAPMIL headquarters in Maseru on Thursday.
The duo will help President Lungu oversee the implementation of the roadmap for reforms in Lesotho.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Chama hailed SAPMIL for its role in restoring relative calm to Lesotho after the instability that was brought on by the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo. He also commended SAPMIL for helping improve the hitherto frosty army-police relations as well as the civilian-military relations.
“You will agree with me that the Kingdom of Lesotho has remained relatively calm, thanks to the diligent work of SAPMIL,” Mr Chama said.
“As SAPMIL’s tenure is scheduled to end in November, I wish to commend SAPMIL for discharging its mandate professionally and for improving the working relationship among the various security agencies through the re-training of Lesotho security personnel particularly in the area of civil-military relations.
“I further wish to commend the government of Lesotho for supporting SAPMIL and further encourage the government to maintain the momentum toward the implementation of reforms to ensure that stability is maintained in the country.”
For his part, Justice Ngulube said he hoped to continue his predecessor’s work with all stakeholders towards the attainment of lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
The Director for the SADC Organ on Politics, Jorge Cardoso, said the SAPMIL and Oversight Committee were in the country “to assist the government of Lesotho and its security agencies to make progress in the reforms process and this has in turn contributed to the maintenance of peace, law and order in the country”.
“However, despite the achievements made this far, much needs to be done for the consolidation of the progress achieved. We cannot afford to relent,” Mr Cardoso added.