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‘Include local security experts in reforms’

 

Tsitsi Matope

THE expertise of honourably retired Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers is imperative in ensuring that the envisaged security sector reforms address all the pertinent areas of conflict.

This is the view of Retired Major-General Samuel Makoro, who also believes that stakeholders working towards resolving Lesotho’s perennial instability should not “skirt around the real issues” if a permanent solution is to be found.

Lesotho has embarked on multi-sectoral reforms with the objective of attaining lasting peace and stability at the instigation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Among the areas earmarked for reform is the security sector, whose convulsions over the years have earned Lesotho the ignoble tag of the region’s problem child.

On 5 September 2017, LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo, was assassinated by his subordinates, prompting SADC to convene a Double Troika Summit on 15 September in Pretoria, South Africa.

The summit agreed to Lesotho’s request for a standby force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF manage the security situation in the country.

However, the size, tenure and scope of the mandate would be determined by the regional bloc’s defence and security chiefs.

The summit also approved an expanded mandate and composition of 34 members of the SADC Oversight Committee to include military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to be immediately deployed to Lesotho for a month.

Led by retired Tanzanian judge, Justice Frederic Mwita Werema, the Oversight Committee was established by an extraordinary summit of the Double Troika on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa to monitor the implementation of SADC decisions regarding the political and security situation in Lesotho.

The committee — which initially had 10 members — was also tasked with providing assistance in the implementation of constitutional, security and public sector reforms in Lesotho.

Rtd Maj-Gen Makoro who retired from the LDF in 2011, after 34 years of distinguished service, told the Sunday Express this past week that while Lesotho needed outside help to manage its security crises, there was also a need for the inclusion of local security experts to ensure that the reforms address all the relevant spheres of conflict.

After training as a pilot in Germany between 1979 and 1980, Rtd Maj-Gen Makoro was deployed in several conflict hotspots including Mozambique where he provided technical air-force support to the government during the country’s civil war.

He said the LDF had acquired a good reputation abroad but had been hamstrung at home by unresolved issues heavily influenced by political polarisation and instability.

Lesotho’s history since independence in 1966 is replete with military rebellions such as the 1986 army coup that ousted the regime of then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan

In other instances, disagreements over salaries, working conditions and promotions, among other complaints, contributed to a demoralised army; which is a recipe for disaster and a major security threat to stability in any country.

The underlying tensions in the LDF were always attributed to political polarisation, which over the years ripped apart the integrity of the army and in some way – made the army a microcosm of the country’s political instability.  Over the years, political parties split on numerous occasions, while in recent years, governments have changed at an unprecedented rate of two-year intervals.

Stakeholders working to resolve the instability in Lesotho, Ret Maj-Gen? Makoro said, should strive for a permanent solution.

“As far as the current crisis is concerned, somewhere along the way the army was captured by certain individuals who had other interests,” he said.

“Only honesty, courage, patriotism and loyalty to our constitution can save Lesotho.”

The inclusion of former LDF officers in the quest to find a lasting solution to the country’s security challenges could not be over-emphasised, Ret Maj-Gen Makoro stressed.

“The problems in the LDF can be complex for external crisis management personnel. But, if they can work closely with retired army officers who understand the depth of the crisis, real issues will be identified and interventions well-designed and implemented.”

Rtd Maj-Gen Makoro also indicated that contrary to prevailing notions, the LDF was “largely professional” having undergone a four-phased restructuring process that started with the support of the British army.

The restructuring process was undertaken after the assassination of Deputy Prime Minister Selometsi Baholo in 1994. The deputy premier was assassinated by some soldiers following a mutiny in one section of the army.

In the same period, senior ministers, who included Shakhane Robong Mokhehle (Trade), Monyane Moleleki (Natural Resources), Pakalitha Mosisili (Education), and Kelebone Albert Maope (Justice) were also held hostage by some soldiers.

However, after the end of apartheid rule in South Africa in 1994, the British army left Lesotho around 1996 while the restructuring of the LDF continued.

The restructuring programme, which is expected to end in 2028, focuses on identifying challenges and limitations of the LDF as well as providing training, reforming and transforming the agency.

Rtd Maj-Gen Makoro explained that the transformation component was the most critical as it changed mind-sets, attitudes and behaviour.

“We are in the 21st century, and times have changed. Modern military approaches now apply. The language has also changed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“Soldiers no longer get medals and promotions for killing many people, as is the case in a war situation, but by the number of lives saved particularly during peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions.”

According to Ret Maj-Gen Makoro, the restructuring was disrupted following the 1998 political disturbances which prompted SADC forces to intervene and help restore order in addition to providing training support for nearly two years.

“They (SADC) rolled-out programmes that were not new and did not add much value,” he said, adding, there was therefore need to ensure SADC would this time around, impart new skills to the LDF and monitor the local soldiers’ performance to ensure continuity once they leave.

Meanwhile, at the recommendation of Botswana, the LDF later engaged the services of the Indian army in 2000 to support the implementation of the main restructuring programme which had been disrupted in 1998.

For 16 years, the Indian army has been providing technical support in areas including medical, legal, military ethics, special forces and administration.

“It appeared they (Indians) were doing a good job. Operations in the army had improved especially from 2000 to 2004 under Lieutenant-General Makhula Mosakeng’s command; between 2004 and 2011 under Lieutenant-General Thuso Motanyane; and from 2011 to August 2014 under Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli’s command,” he said.

But he explained Lesotho “does not need a brigade size (more than 1 000 officers) of people, for example, to resolve challenges because a lot of work has been done, judging from 13 years of stability in the army”.

He continued: “The constitutional mandate of the LDF is clearly stipulated in the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996, which was developed with the support of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.  There are also other supporting documents such as regulations and policies that guide operations in the army.

“The question is whether these and other critical procedures are religiously followed in making decisions that include officers’ promotions but without usurping the role of the government (the Minister of Defence).

“The need to follow procedures is crucial in matters regarding senior officers’ promotions because failure to do so can compromise the quality of the leadership, which can then affect the whole army and spark security challenges.”

Lesotho’s Defence Force was established shortly after independence in 1966 as a Police Mobile Unit that was part of the police. It then transformed to become the Lesotho Para-Military Force. After the 1986 coup that removed Prime Minister Jonathan Leabua, it again evolved to become the Royal Lesotho Defence Force under the military government. Following another coup that removed General Justin Metsing Lekhanya in 1991, the late Major General Pitsoane Ramaema took over and restored the country back to civilian rule in 1993.

 

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