THE LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) says it will maintain troops at its temporary base that it established during the festive season in Ribaneng, Mafeteng until it is satisfied that the area is crime-free.
Ribaneng and other areas in the district of Mafeteng have achieved notoriety on account of killings and other forms of crime that are linked with rival famo music gangs. The killings that have been carried out mainly through the use of illegal firearms have been the scourge of Ribaneng go back as far as 2011 and they have claimed many lives.
And while such famo-related killings have been reported in other districts, Mafeteng and in particular, Ribaneng has been identified as the nerve centre of the criminal activities.
As part of efforts to curb the crimes, the LDF deployed soldiers and set up a temporary base in Ribaneng shortly before last Christmas.
And in a recent interview with the Sunday Express, the LDF Public Relations Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mashili Mashili said the LDF had resolved to maintain the base so that it continues to monitor the crime situation in the area.
Lt-Col Mashili said prior to the deployment of the soldiers, government in collaboration with the security agencies held a big public gathering in a bid to find ways to stop the killings that normally occur in the area particularly around Christmas time.
“So, knowing that during Christmas holidays such areas are normally plagued by conflicts which lead to fights, we gave such areas priority by sending our soldiers to patrol them to ensure the public’s safety,” Lt-Col Mashili said.
“Besides Ribaneng there are other areas where we found it critical to place our soldiers and in all those areas, we do not intend to recall the soldiers back to the barracks until we are fully satisfied that such areas are now stable.
“So, far I’m not in a position to say whether or not the LDF plans to have permanent deployments but what I can safely say is that the public will continue to see soldiers until we are satisfied that the areas are crime-free because the exercise is done to protect the community which is vulnerable to the killings.”
Lt-Col Mashili said they would work with the police particularly when it comes to handing over criminal suspects.
He said they had witnessed positive in the form of reductions in crimes committed in some of the areas where they had stationed troops. Rothe in Maseru was cited as an example of one of the areas which has seen progress since the deployment of soldiers.
At least 11 people were murdered last year in Rothe. The killings even assumed an indiscriminate nature with more women among the victims.
On 23 July 2018, five women were murdered in cold blood in Rote and to date the killers have not been apprehended.