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SADC intelligence outlines army threats

 

Staff Writer

THE intelligence committee of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has identified lingering threats to Lesotho’s security which include army deserters implicated in crimes, lack of trust between security structures as well as lack of control and accountability in the use of arms and ammunition.

The committee also identifies security threats in the delayed implementation of security sector reforms and recommendations by the Phumaphi SADC Commission of Inquiry.

This is outlined in a report of a SADC Defence Intelligence Standing Committee (DISC) meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa last Tuesday ahead of the Double Troika Summit that was held on Friday.

The Double Troika Summit, which was attended by representatives of the governments of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania, had been convened in light of the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates.

The Sunday Express saw a copy of the DISC meeting report, which states that there was still “tension and division” within the Lesotho Defence Force in the aftermath of the assassination.

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was fatally shot on 5 September 2017 by a subordinate, Brigadier Bulane Sechele, at his Ratjomose barracks office.

According to the government account of the incident, Brig Sechele had been accompanied by Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and a third officer on the fateful day.

Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were killed in a hail of bullets from Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards outside the office complex.

Major Pitso Ramoepane, who has since been revealed as the third LDF officer, was on Thursday charged with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s murder in the Magistrate’s Court.

He is expected to reappear before the same court on 28 September for a follow-up remand.

The report also highlights rampant indiscipline in the LDF and calls for the retraining of officers.

“The Defence Sub Committee is invited to note the lack of professionalism, acute indiscipline and failure to observe and respect the command structure within the Lesotho Defence Force rank and file which manifests itself into a high degree of disobedience.

“This therefore points to the need for SADC to urgently provide assistance in re-training LDF personnel and in taking stern measures against the evident impunity within the ranks of the LDF.”

The document also includes the report of a SADC Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission which was in Lesotho earlier this month after Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s assassination.

Led by Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, the fact-finding mission conducted an assessment of the security situation in Lesotho and held meetings with key stakeholders in the country “in order to establish the root causes of the assassination and subsequently recommend the appropriate courses of action”.

The fact-finding mission had echoed the Lesotho government’s request for a standby force of “battalion strength” comprising of military, police and civilian components.

The envisaged tasks of the battalion – which usually consists of between 300 and 400 troops – were to assist in the implementation of security sector reforms and implement the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry.

Experts in the contingent force were also expected to provide assistance in the amendments to the LDF and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Acts to separate the powers of the two agencies.

They were also earmarked for providing support in re-training security personnel especially in the area of civil-military relations and to monitor the investigation of the assassination of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo.

However, the Double Troika Summit has mandated defence and security chiefs from the region to determine the size, tenure and scope of the contingent force before its deployment to the Mountain Kingdom.

The DISC report also highlighted threats to the security environment in Lesotho caused by the delay in the implementation of the security sector reforms and recommendations by the SADC Commission of Inquiry.

The SADC Commission of Inquiry was established in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of former LDF commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015 by his colleagues.

The LDF claimed Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest during a special operation to nab mutiny suspects. However, the Mahao family has disputed the claim, accusing the LDF of killing the former army chief in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him on the fateful day.

The 10-member commission led by Botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao and prosecute those found to be responsible.

Former LDF commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli’s removal from the army command was part of the recommendations of SADC commission.

It recommended that: “Lt-Gen Kamoli be relieved of his duties as commander of the LDF in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation and officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason be suspended while investigations in their cases proceed in line with international best practice”.

The commission also recommended a slew of constitutional, legislative and security sector reforms among others to stem the perennial instability in the Mountain Kingdom.

The DISC report also notes the high levels of politicisation of Lesotho’s security structures as well as the continuing “relevance and influence by soldiers which still have allegiance to the former LDF command”.

It spells out the threat posed by deserters implicated in various crimes “as well the general lack of discipline within the Lesotho Defence Force rank file which manifests into a high degree of disobedience of the command structure.

“There is lack of trust between the security structures and lack of control and accountability of arms and ammunition.”

The report recommends SADC to urge the government of Lesotho to provide conclusive progress on the implementation of the reforms roadmap. The intelligence body also recommends a review of the constitution for the monarch to be made commander-in-chief instead of the premier.

“In line with the constitutional reforms in the Kingdom of Lesotho, the role of the monarchy should be reviewed to include among others, the empowerment of the monarchy to be the commander-in-chief of the LDF.”

It also recommends the “strengthening of LDF Command and control structures” as well as urging the LDF leadership to act “decisively, responsibly and be accountable in maintaining order within the rank structure”.

Other recommendations include the establishment of a reconciliation process, “however not at the expense of legal processes as guided by the SADC Commission of Inquiry”.

It also recommends the strengthening of the SADC Oversight Committee “by intelligence capability as an Early Warning System and further serve as a monitoring mechanism throughout the government structures”.

The summit subsequently approved an expanded mandate and composition of 34 members of the SADC Oversight Committee to include military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to be immediately deployed to Lesotho for a month.

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