THE Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) yesterday celebrated its 39th anniversary amid calls by army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, for the soldiers to remain apolitical and protect the country’s citizens in line with democratic principles.
The army chief also implored civilians to desist from denigrating soldiers through numerous media platforms.
He said this while addressing the 39th anniversary at the Mejametalana Airbase in Maseru. Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, several government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries attended yesterday’s celebrations.
The LDF started as the Police Mobile Unit (PMU) in 1964 before the enactment of Lesotho Paramilitary Force (LPF) Act of 1980, retaining the name until 1986 when it was changed to the Royal Lesotho Defence Force (RLDF).
The Ministry of Defence was established in 1995 in an effort to “strengthen civilian control over the defence force” and just a year later, the RLDF was renamed the LDF under the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996.
Yesterday’s Lesotho Defence Force Day event was marked by speeches including that of Lt-Gen Letsoela, tours of the LDF exhibition stalls and an array of activities, which included the popular aerial parachute display.
Lt Letsoela said the event was an opportunity for soldiers to present themselves to the people they protect and the exhibition stalls were aimed at young people who were keen to take up a career in the military.
“We aim to reassure the nation about the LDF and its commitment to carry out our constitutional mandates with precision.
“These are primarily to defend and preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our beloved country Lesotho, her people and their property,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.
Lt Letsoela said the LDF had done well to fulfil its mandate in the face of a limited budget allocation by treasury. The army chief also implored civilians to desist from denigrating soldiers through numerous media platforms.
“I will also wish to appeal to some sections of society to stop ridiculing members of the LDF who are always sacrificing their lives to make it possible for citizens to live peacefully in a stable economically enabling environment.
“In some instances, they maintain their pledge to protect even those who are quick to slander them through the use of numerous media platforms. It is these men and women in uniform who without any political stance, serve the country vehemently as the defence force machinery of the state, knowing that they must at all times remain apolitical and must adhere to the defence force principles that bind them by their cherished military values relevant to democratic governance.”
Lt-Gen Letsoela took the opportunity to thank their international partners for their role in the LDF’s growth.
“It would be remiss on my part if I were not to make mention of the mutual training assistance received from out esteemed friends both in the region and far abroad.
“Our long standing partners, the United States of America, China and the United Kingdom have demonstrated their willingness to see us up on our feet again as a professional defence force in a democratic dispensation.
“They have successfully conducted numerous courses and seminars for members of the security cluster, including Lesotho Mountain Police Service, National Security Service, Lesotho Correctional Service, Lesotho Revenue Authority, media and department of immigration.
“In regard to the LDF command future projections, all that can be said is that we have tabled defence force trajectory programmes and plans before the relevant authorities and we are hopeful that they will receive judicial favourable consideration for the good of Lesotho,” Lt Letsoela said.