Kamoli seized weapons – ‘Maseribane
BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, says Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli has “emptied” the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) armory and taken the weapons to a military training camp in Setibing for reasons not yet known to the government.
Lt Gen Kamoli was fired as LDF commander by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 29 August 2014, and replaced by Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, in a move which has sharply divided the two-year-old coalition government.
However, Lt Gen Kamoli insists he is still the army commander, while Lt Gen Mahao’s whereabouts have been kept a secret since unknown gunmen opened fire on his residence, a day after his elevation from Brigadier to LDF commander in what he believes was an assassination attempt.
Speaking on the sidelines of a media briefing held at State House on Friday to update the nation on SADC’s recommendation that Parliament should be reopened on 19 September, Chief ‘Maseribane said this would not be possible due to the security threat posed by Lt Gen Kamoli.
Dr Thabane suspended Parliament for nine months on 10 June 2014 to avert his ouster through a no-confidence vote by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), who accused him and his government of maladministration.
However, in a bid to end the political instability which followed the prorogation, SADC last week brokered an agreement which obliged Dr Thabane to reopen Parliament on 19 September, but according to Chief ‘Maseribane, the security issue should be addressed first before this could happen.
“Lieutenant General Kamoli has refused to step down and, instead, decided to rebel against the decision to remove him as army commander, thereby compromising the country’s security,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
According to Chief ‘Maseribane, who is also a member of Lesotho’s Security Council, Lt Gen Kamoli had allegedly seized an undisclosed amount of LDF weapons and taken them to the military’s main training camp in Setibing “for what, I don’t know”.
“We need to address the security situation and implement the change of command. The armory, as we speak, is empty because all weapons have been seized by Kamoli and taken to Setibing, which is the military’s main training camp,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“What’s going on? Did the prime minister even know, as defence minister, that weapons would be moved to Setibing? Did he approve their removal and subsequent installation of some weapons on mountain-tops?
“We are not sure how to go about reconvening Parliament under the current security situation. How are MPs expected to go to Parliament when their security is compromised?”
Chief ‘Maseribane, whose party formed a coalition government with Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Mothetjoa Metsing after the 26 June 2012 general election had failed to produce an outright majority winner, was adamant that until the situation stabilised, “Parliament will not convene”.
“Whatever happens next in Parliament, we will cross that bridge when we get to it. But our main concern now is our safety,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“The change of command has to be implemented swiftly in order to avert bloodshed and a repeat of the 1998 political turmoil.
“And we’re not saying the new commander should go on the rampage arresting people. He must stabilise the security situation, recover the weapons in Setibing and ensure that LDF members return to the barracks.”
Asked if there had been attempts to engage Lt General Kamoli — who is also accused of trying to topple the government after some LDF members attacked three key police stations in Maseru last Saturday resulting in the premier fleeing to South Africa, Chief ‘Maseribane said: “We called him for a meeting here at State House yesterday (Thursday) to give him his letter of dismissal, and waited for him for three hours, from 9am to 12 noon, but he never came.
“We then decided to go looking for him so we could give him the letter and introduce him to the new commander, but he refused to meet with us and, instead, locked all the gates leading to his office (at Ha Ratjomose Barracks).”
On whether government knew of Lt Gen Kamoli’s whereabouts, Chief ‘Maseribane said: “He is in Setibing; he went there the same day we tried to give him his letter of dismissal.”
Meanwhile, addressing Friday’s press briefing, Dr Thabane expressed disappointment at the way the media has been reporting Lt Gen Kamoli’s issue.
Dr Thabane said as prime minister and minister of Defence, Police and National Security, he had advised the King to remove Lt Gen Kamoli as LDF commander and replace him with Lt Gen Mahao.
“I find it a shame that an issue as sensitive as this, is being passed around like a volleyball in media houses, thereby confusing the public and military,” Dr Thabane said.
“I therefore appeal to all politicians and everybody else who has an interest in this matter, to stop stripping it of its dignity.
“If there is anybody who has a problem with this decision, there are responsible channels to follow and express their views.
“The appointment of the LDF Commander is, according to the law, solely my business as prime minister and minister of defence.
“The necessary procedures have been followed in the execution of this decision and the last step was acquiring the King’s blessing.”
Asked if Parliament would reopen on 19 September as recommended by SADC, Dr Thabane said: “We have now officially lifted the prorogation of Parliament and we have, accordingly, advised His Majesty the King and the date for the reconvening of Parliament will be announced.”
The premier would not take any questions from the media as he immediately left after making his brief statement.
After repeated efforts to seek a comment from either LDF spokesperson Major Ntlele Ntoi and Lt Gen Kamoli regarding Chief ‘Maseribane’s allegations had failed yesterday, the Sunday Express contacted the Ministry of Defence Principal Secretary, Thato Mohasoa, who however, would not be drawn to comment on the issue.
“I don’t want to be quoted on these issues, so I am not in a position to confirm anything,” Mr Mohasoa said.