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I’m still in charge of the army: Thabane


Billy Ntaote

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane says he is still in charge of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) despite Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s refusal to accept his decision to fire him as army commander.

Dr Thabane, who is also the Minister of Defence, Police and National Security, dismissed Lt Gen Kamoli on 29 August this year, and replaced him with Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. However, Lt Gen Kamoli has refused to accept the dismissal which he has since called illegal, leaving Lt Gen Mahao in limbo.

Addressing a press conference at the Lesotho Sun Hotel soon after Friday’s reopening of parliament, Dr Thabane, who was in the company of South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, said he would soon be addressing the LDF issue. This was after the premier had been asked if SADC was also intervening in Lt Gen Kamoli’s issue the way the regional bloc had mediated in the feuding between the coalition government parties, resulting in Friday’s reconvening of parliament after its nine-month prorogation by Dr Thabane on 10 June this year to avoid a no-confidence vote.

“I think commenting about the army is quite appropriate. As you could see, this was the first time we opened parliament and members of the LDF were not there. We shared the idea, as political leaders, that we should do what comes first, which is democratising parliament. And then, of course, we would be dealing with other associated problems that have brought us to this point and the army is part of that,” said the embattled All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, whose decision to suspend parliament resulted in an open rebellion by Deputy Prime Minister and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing, and the collapse of the coalition government.

The ABC, LCD and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Thesele ‘Maseribane, formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 general election had produced a hung parliament.

According to Dr Thabane, the issue of the LDF command was not forgotten and would be addressed without fail.

“The next press conferences would be about the outstanding issues, and the army is one of them. Am I still in charge of the LDF? Of course I am in charge of the army but I’m not in charge of the bad behaviour in the army. That is being done by someone else that I did not ask to represent me there,” said the premier with a sarcastic laugh.

On the other hand, Mr Ramaphosa, who was in the country to observe the reconvening of parliament in his capacity as Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator to Lesotho’s political and security crises, said the LDF is an institution which is “part and parcel of the body politic of Lesotho”.

“Lesotho has the King as the Head of State and the Prime Minister as Head of Government and Cabinet. So there is leadership of the various governmental institutions in Lesotho and the Lesotho Defence Force is led by these leaders. It is led by Cabinet, by the Prime Minister.

“Whoever is appointed, from time to time, to be head of this unit and that unit, is a decision that is taken as the occasion arises. And in this regard, a head was appointed, and decisions were taken that that head of the Lesotho Defence Force needs to make way for another and that issue is being addressed,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

The SADC Observer Mission, he added, was dealing with the security aspect of the Lesotho crisis. However, according to the Maseru Facilitation Declaration signed by all the country’s political party leaders on 2 October 2014 and paved the way for Friday’s reopening of parliament, its dissolution in early December and snap election in February 2015, two years ahead of its original date of 2017, the security issue is not part of the roadmap.

“The Prime Minister took certain decisions and they are being addressed with a view of making sure that we implement the correct decisions. And the Lesotho Defence Force is not unaccountable; it is an institution. It is not lost at sea; it is an institution that is carrying out its mandate in this country.

“The SADC Mission will be addressing the security architecture and landscape in Lesotho. The Prime Minister has had discussions with other role-players regarding the issue. And on this one, we are making a great deal of progress. The fact that parliament could be opened under conditions of peace and stability testifies to the fact that SADC, working together with the government here, is addressing the very issue of security.

“So we cannot say that there is unaccountability and no leadership. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet are fully in charge of what is happening in Lesotho,” said Mr Ramaphosa.

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