Deputy premier says fired army commander has not breached security agreement
DEPUTY Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing has launched a spirited defence of fired Lesotho Defence Force commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who has been accused by Defence Ministry Principal Secretary (PS) Thato Mohasoa of violating the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) entered into last month.
Under the agreement, Lt Gen Kamoli and Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao of the LDF, and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, are supposed to go to an African or Commonwealth country on special leave to allow the restoration of cordial relations between the two feuding security agencies.
During the leave of absence, which comes into effect on 15 November 2014, the three are not supposed to “exercise any authority or undue influence over the LDF or LMPS”, which would be under the leadership of their deputies.
However, according to Mr Mohasoa’s letter to South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to facilitate Lesotho’s return to political and security stability, Lt Gen Kamoli was breaching the MSA, signed on 23 October 2014, at will.
According to Mr Mohasoa’s letter, SADC “through the Facilitator, must remove General Kamoli from the LDF and the country as a matter of urgency and by any means, for peace to prevail.”
The PS substantiates his allegations against Lt Gen Kamoli — who has refused to step down as LDF commander despite being fired by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 28 August 2014 for alleged insubordination and replaced by Lt Gen Mahao — which he said warranted his removal.
Mr Mohasoa writes: “Following the signature of the Maseru Security Accord, a number of violation incidences by Lt Gen Kamoli have been recorded.
“A day after the signing of the Accord, General Kamoli called two meetings, one after the other, for officers and other ranks. In the two meetings, he reported that he was still the substantive commander of the LDF. He also told the soldiers that he would proceed on leave of absence after the expiry of 21 days, leaving his second in command in an acting capacity and detailed how resources of the office of the commander would be utilised in his absence.
“The two meetings were followed by visits to other districts where he told soldiers virtually the same message.
“The organisation of the meetings and utterances violated the letter and spirit of the MSA in that the accord does not reinstate Gen Kamoli in the office of commander of the LDF; on the contrary, it recognises his removal from office by obliging the signatories to abide by the laws of Lesotho.
“His remarks outlining the use of resources violates the MSA provision on non-interference with the LDF during the leave of absence. The utterances also go far beyond what can be termed as handing over to the second in command of the Force. His continued engagement within the LDF is a clear disregard of the article relating to subservience to the civil authority of the country.”
Mr Mohasoa further narrates how a number of soldiers were “detained and questioned for several hours and consecutive days following the publication, on social media, of a photograph of Cabinet Ministers’ vehicles fuelling at a military fuel bowser”.
“Mobile phones of the soldiers were confiscated for long hours. The detention of the soldiers and confiscation of their phones amounted to recriminations for matters arising from military-political situations that the MSA sought to resolve. These incidents therefore, contravene the spirit of the Accord to the extent that it encourages the promotion of peace.”
Mr Mohasoa further notes how “on 31 October 2014, during the visit of Gen Kamoli at Mokhotlong Military Base, soldiers were assaulted and the base commander threatened with death”.
“The soldiers were alleged to be loyal to Gen Mahao, hence the assault. The incident has since been reported to Mokhotlong Police Station where Criminal Record of Investigation /749/11/14 has been opened. The violence meted out on the soldiers by Gen Kamoli’s team overtly provokes violent response from soldiers who do not support the self-imposed command of Gen Kamoli,” he said.
“In the end, it is a matter of urgency that SADC, through the Facilitator, remove Gen Kamoli, by any means, from the LDF and the country in order for the peace process to commence.
“It remains the view of the government of Lesotho that if Mr Kamoli could leave the army, all efforts to restore both the political and security situation to normalcy will be successful”.
However, Mr Metsing, whose party — Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has refused to accept Lt Gen Kamoli’s dismissal alleging that it was illegal — said Mr Mohasoa had jumped the gun in his accusations.
Speaking after meeting Mr Ramaphosa on Thursday at a local hotel, Mr Metsing said the PS was misinterpreting the accord, adding Lt Gen Kamoli had done nothing wrong as he was still in office until the 21 days stipulated in the Accord are over.
“I think everything is going well; to me, I don’t see any breach of the Maseru Security Accord. However, people are beginning to interpret that accord differently,” said Mr Metsing.
“People who seem to be raising their concerns over the manner in which the LDF is implementing the Accord are misguided and misinterpreting the agreement.
“The agreement says the three men would go on leave of absence on or before the expiry of 21 days after the signing of the MSA.
“That means there is an option there. Others will go before while others will go exactly on the expiry of 21 days. However, the impression that is being created here is that, no, it is not like that. You go read the Accord and that is what it says. So I think we are still within those limits.”
Talking about Mr Ramaphosa’s mediation, which started when he brokered the Maseru Facilitation Declaration (MFD) last month, Mr Metsing said the LCD was happy with his facilitation. According to the MFD signed on 2 October by leaders of political parties represented in parliament, the legislature was to reopen on 17 October following its unilateral nine-month suspension on 10 June 2014 by Dr Thabane who wanted to avoid a no-confidence vote, dissolve early December and snap elections held in February 2015, instead of the initial 2017.
This roadmap followed the collapse of the coalition government comprising the LCD, Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane. The three parties formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 general election had failed to produce a single party with an outright majority of parliamentary seats to rule on its own, but have since fallen out after Mr Metsing decided to pull out of the alliance citing Dr Thabane’s alleged failure to consult his fellow government leaders when making key governance decisions such as the prorogation of parliament and removal or dismissal of key personnel such as the Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General and LDF commander.
“We are on track towards next year’s elections. The Facilitator is here to monitor and get a feel of how we are implementing those declarations we committed ourselves to as different stakeholders,” Mr Metsing added.
“So far, we are really happy with the facilitation process; there will always be challenges here and there but the achievements that have been made so far surpass the challenges.
“As the LCD, we are happy that parliament has been opened as per the Maseru Facilitation Declaration.
“However, we realise that it is not an easy task especially now that the Facilitator is working with groups that hold divergent views over issues but has to come up with a compromise and agreement at the end of the day.”
On the upcoming election, Mr Metsing said the LCD is “more than ready”, adding that: “We are already preparing for elections as we speak.
“We also have a philosophy that we should always be ready for elections as a party.”