A FIVE-MAN African Union (AU) Peace Support Operating Division Assessment Mission is expected in the country today to monitor the progress made by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Standby Force in assisting Lesotho to restore peace and stability.
The team arrives in the country against the background of last week’s 748th meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where the Council appealed to AU member states, the UN and development partners to provide financial support to the SADC force to enable it to meet its budget shortfall of US$1, 6 million (approximately M20 million).
During its tour of duty, the visiting AU delegation– made of four AU officials and one SADC secretariat representative –will tour the areas where the SADC forces are stationed and have meetings with its police, civilians and military components.
The delegation will also hold closed door meetings with government officials, defence and security chiefs, opposition parties, the media, the Law Society of Lesotho, the Christian Council of Lesotho and civil society organisations.
SAMPIL officials on Friday told the Sunday Express that the main objective of the AU delegation is to get a firsthand appreciation of the progress the SADC force has made towards fulfilling its mandate.
The SADC forces, also known as the SADC Preventive Mission in the Kingdom of Lesotho (SAPMIL), have been in the country since 2 December, 2017.
The deployment of the standby force– made of 207 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 12 civilian experts- was endorsed by SADC leaders to assist the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in managing the security crisis in the country in the aftermath of the 5 September, 2017 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
According to SADC, one of the main objectives of the SADC deployment is to “assist in isolating renegade elements within the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)”.
The standby force will also support Lesotho in retraining its army personnel, especially in the area of civil-military relations while working towards security sector and other institutional reforms.
In a statement to the Sunday Express, SAPMIL said the AU delegation was coming to “show their support to the SADC mission to Lesotho and see how things are going”.
“Four people are coming from the AU side and one will be coming from the SADC secretariat to represent the executive secretary.
“It is normal for the AU as the continental body to monitor missions deployed in different African countries.
“They are not coming here because there is something wrong. It is just to come and show their support to the SADC mission to Lesotho and see how things are going,” SAPMIL said.
Last week at its Addis Ababa meeting, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union reiterated that the SAPMIL was “established in line with the United Nations (UN)…protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the AU and the relevant provisions contained in the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, including the memorandum of understanding establishing the SADC Standby Brigade of 2007”.
The Council also appealed to AU member states, the UN and development partners to offer technical and financial support to SAPMIL to enable it to meet its budget shortfall of US$1, 6 million (approximately M20 million).
The resolution was made after SAPMIL appealed to the AU to assist it to cover the shortfall in its budget which is slightly over US$4 million for the initial six months that the standby force expects to be in Lesotho.
In a statement released after the meeting, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) “welcomed the SADC request for support from the AU for the provision of technical and financial support for SAPMIL in particular for the provision of support for the initial six months for a budget of US$1,613,928.00”.
“The SADC region urgently needs to mobilise in order to cater for the shortfall and allow the SAPMIL to carry out its mandate within the initial six months.
“In this regard, AU PSC appeals to all AU member states, the UN and partners to extend their support, particularly technical and financial support to SAPMIL. The Council requests the Chairperson of the AU Commission, in consultation with the SADC Secretariat, to make proposals on technical and financial support to the SAPMIL operation and update the AU PSC on the matter.”
The AU PSC also “acknowledged that the objective of the deployment of the SADC force is to stabilise the political and security situation in the Lesotho and to create a secure, stable and peaceful environment conducive for the rule of law necessary for the implementation of constitutional, parliamentary, judicial, public and security sector reforms.
The AU PSC also praised the Thomas Thabane-led government for its “commitment to finding a lasting solution to its security situation”.
It further “encouraged” the government to implement the multi-sectoral reforms.