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Kamoli declares war on criminals



‘If we don’t urgently hunt down these criminals and disarm them, they will attack this nation. They are a menace already and we cannot allow this to happen as the military,’ says army commander.

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

Qacha’s Nek

Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, has vowed an army crackdown on crime syndicates that he said are making life miserable for Basotho.

The army chief sent this warning in Qacha’s Nek on Friday during a display of weapons recovered in a joint police and LDF raid in the district. Similar raids, Lt-Gen Kamoli added, would be carried out in other parts of the country and are going to target illegally acquired firearms which he said were being smuggled from South Africa and used by criminals to terrorise defenseless citizens. Lt-Gen Kamoli also said the cross-border crime had the potential to sour relations between Lesotho and South Africa, hence the need to stop it without further delay.

“This issue of illegal possession of firearms is so serious that it can lead to war. We are dealing with serious crime syndicates that have become armed forces themselves. If we don’t urgently hunt down these criminals and disarm them, they will attack this nation. They are a menace already and we cannot allow this to happen as the military,” said Lt-Gen Kamoli.

The military chief also told local residents and dignitaries who had come to witness the recovered weapons and hear why the nation should not take armed criminals lightly, that for the operation to succeed, it required cooperation from every stakeholder. During the operation, which began on 5 July, a total of 142 firearms and 874 livestock, comprising cattle, horses, sheep and goats, were recovered in the district.

Among the recovered weapons were homemade firearms whose sophistication was a huge surprise to the gathering.

According to Lt-Gen Kamoli, such a big number of illegally acquired weapons and the improvised firearms should be cause for concern to the nation.

The LDF commander also said most of the firearms were being smuggled from  South Africa and warned this could cause “serious tension” between the two countries.

“Maybe you are not aware that a war between the two neighbouring countries can emanate from this; a serious war!” Lt-Gen Kamoli warned.

“As a matter of fact, Qacha’s Nek is just an example of what we are going to do throughout the country—a crackdown on these syndicates and individuals who destabilize the peace of Basotho and rob this country of its economy.

Display of illicit firearms confiscated during the operation
Display of illicit firearms confiscated during the operation

“As the LDF, we can do this successfully with equal commitment from our partners, the police. This is what we are being paid for through public taxes. I don’t see why we should fail. Our mandate, as the LDF, is to protect the nation and its property. That is what we are paid to do.

“I should warn the public that if we become aware that you are in possession of an illegal firearm and we ask you to surrender it and you don’t, it will not be nice when we come for you. We know how to make you disclose the whereabouts of the firearm and where you got it. We have been trained to do so. Go and ask those who tried to hide the weapons and they will tell you what we did to them. They will tell you it was not nice.”

Speaking at the same gathering, the commander of the operation, Major Bonang Linale, said 74 of the weapons had been voluntarily surrendered by their owners.

“We have since registered their names and removed them from the list of our targets,” he said.

Major Linale also revealed that two people had died during the operation.

However, Lt-Gen Kamoli said the deaths were unfortunate.

“Where the army intervenes to instill the rule of law, the other party will almost always be hurt and feel prejudiced. It happens even during big military operations  or peacekeeping missions in other countries; we know other people are going to die,” Lt-Gen Kamoli said.

The army boss also urged the public to refrain from associating the army with party politics. Even during the Qacha’s Nek operation, Lt-Gen Kamoli said the LDF was accused of targeting members of certain political parties.

“We cannot be chasing members of political parties. We don’t know them. We have no interest in them. The army cannot be used in party politics. Whichever operation we conduct, we do so under strict professional guidelines. We don’t  intend to kill people. It accidentally happens as we are applying our tactics. What we do is not easy. We can only apologise to people we accidentally hurt while doing our job,” he said.

Meanwhile, local residents commended the army and police for the operation which they said had brought a sense of security to the district.

The District Administrator, Mosiuoa Nthakong, also said the criminals were raping “grannies, women and young girls at gunpoint” and bringing so much misery to the people.

“Melele (people of Qacha’s Nek) can now walk freely and in peace since the army came here. We used to live in fear before this operation,” he said

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