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LDF boss warns soldiers

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Pascalinah Kabi

LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela says the army command will not hesitate to discipline errant soldiers who dabble in politics and undermine civilian authority.

Lt-Gen Letsoela also warned soldiers against airing their grievances on social media platforms. He said army officers had an obligation to conduct themselves professionally at all times knowing that they were the country’s last line of defence from any threats.

He said this while addressing army officers at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru on Thursday.

He said his remarks were made against the background of reports that some soldiers were leaking false information to some social media platforms about a disgruntled soldier who had allegedly deserted the army’s special forces unit.

Lt-Gen Letsoela said he felt compelled to publicly rebuke errant soldiers because failure to deal with indiscipline would lead to a situation where the army regressed to its recent dark past where soldiers wantonly dabbled in politics, undermined civilian authority and caused instability in the country.

During that period from 2014 to 2016, army officers under the command of then LDF commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli attempted to stage a coup against the government of then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. They also assassinated former army commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao in July 2015.

Lt-Gen Kamoli was eventually forced to step down on 1 December 2016 due to sustained pressure from the United States government which threatened to withdraw development assistance if he remained at the helm of the army. The instability continued into 2017 when army commander Lt-Gen Khoantle Motsomotso was shot dead by soldiers who were allegedly loyal to Lt-Gen Kamoli.

But since the advent of Lt-Gen Letsoela in 2018, the army has been stable and submitted itself to civilian authority.

In his speech on Thursday, Lt-Gen Letsoela emphasised the importance of maintaining stability and ensuring the army did not slide back to its dark days.

“I will not allow things to go back to that situation (of instability),” Lt Gen Letsoela said, adding, “No, I wouldn’t”.

“The constitution says the army is for the defence of Lesotho. It is not explained further in the constitution and therefore it is for us as commanders to study the national or government objectives and aspirations so that we can align ourselves with them while doing our security job.”

Lt-Gen Letsoela said the army command needed to be extra vigilant and ensure discipline at all times because having ill-disciplined soldiers in their ranks was akin to “giving a mad man a cocked and fully loaded AK47 rifle” which he could use to foment instability and destroy the peace.

He warned soldiers against feeding social media platforms with false information about disgruntlement in the army. He also warned administrators of the social media platforms that the army had means of unmasking them but had chosen not to do so to give them time to refrain from their “stupid” ways.

He cited the case of the Liotloana Facebook page which he said had falsely reported that one soldier only known as Ramosiee had deserted the army’s special forces. The false information was leaked to them by some soldiers, he said.

“I have realised that there are some soldiers bent on peddling wrong information. You should know that you are injuring the Lesotho Defence Force.

“That (special forces) unit is under my direct command for strategic reasons. I don’t want comedians in that unit, that is why I am enforcing stringent standards.

“I am saying this with a bitter, bitter heart. Beware you troublemakers in uniform.”

He warned soldiers to stay in their lane, subject themselves to civilian authority and refrain from meddling in politics.

“There at the government complex, the Honourable Prime Minister (Moeketsi Majoro), his deputy (Mathibeli Mokhothu) and other civilian leaders have their own mandate to discharge. What is your business in government business administration? You cannot be affected or involve yourselves with what happens there (government complex),” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.

 

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