. . . as region deliberates on deployment of standby force
Pascalinah Kabi & Tsitsi Matope
A 40-MEMBER Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Technical Assessment Team (TAM) will on Tuesday present a report to the region’s defence and security chiefs with recommendations on the size, tenure and scope of a contingent force to be deployment in Lesotho by 1 November 2017.
The TAM will also present a draft Concept of Operation (CONOPS), Rules of Engagement (ROE) and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to the Defence Sub Committee in the meeting slated for Luanda, Angola.
The team’s recommendations will be informed by its five-day visit to Lesotho this past week to assess the security situation in the country in the aftermath of the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo allegedly by his subordinates.
According to the government’s account, Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was shot dead at his Ratjomose barracks office allegedly by Brigadier Bulane Sechele who was accompanied by Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and Major Pitso Ramoepane. Brig Sechele was killed in a hail of bullets by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards soon afterwards, while Col Hashatsi died of his wounds in a nearby hospital.
Maj Ramoepane has since been charged with murdering Lt-Gen Motšomotšo in the Magistrate’s Court and currently awaits trial.
In the wake of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s assassination, SADC convened an urgent summit in Pretoria, South Africa on 15 September 2017 to map the way forward.
The summit approved Lesotho’s request for a stand-by force consisting of military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF in managing the security crisis in the country.
The summit further directed regional defence chiefs to convene the TAM to Lesotho ahead of the deployment of the regional stand-by force. The TAM’s role is to assist the defence and security chiefs to determine the size, tenure and scope of the contingent force before its deployment to the Mountain Kingdom.
The technical team was in Lesotho between 24 and 28 September during which time they held consultative meetings with stakeholders at the Mojalefa Lephole Convention Centre in Maseru.
The mission comprised of senior military, police and state security and civilian officers from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and the SADC Secretariat. Botswana participated in the TAM in the country’s capacity as chair of the Defence Intelligence Standing Committee.
The stakeholders in the consultative meetings included the government and other non-state actors such as Christian Council of Lesotho, the Lesotho Council of NGOs and representatives of opposition political parties.
According to a statement issued by SADC, the consultative meetings were opened by Local Government and Chieftaincy Minister Habofanoe Lehana, and his Defence and National Security counterpart Sentje Lebona.
Reads part of the statement: “In his remarks, Honourable Lehana expressed gratitude for the assistance that SADC continues to provide the Kingdom of Lesotho in times of need. He described the SADC intervention as timely following the successful conduct of the Ministerial Fact Finding Mission of the Organ Troika on 8 September 2017 which culminated into the holding of the Double Troika Summit on 15 September 2017 and the deployment of the TAM to Lesotho on 24 September 2017.
“He therefore pledged the commitment of the Government of Lesotho to the implementation of the decisions of the SADC Summit. He however expressed remorse that Lesotho continued to be on top of the SADC Agenda, under countries in the region that are in conflict.”
At the end of the mission, the team prepared a detailed report with recommendations on the requirements and modalities for the deployment of the standby force.
“The TAM also prepared the draft Concept of Operation (CONOPS), Rules of Engagement (ROE) and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for consideration of the Defence Sub Committee which is scheduled to hold its meeting in Luanda, Republic of Angola on 3rd – 5th October 2017,” adds the statement.
Defence and National Security Ministry Principal Secretary, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae, told the Sunday Express on Friday that the government was spearheading the implementation of multi-sectoral reforms with support from SADC, development partners and local stakeholders.
A SADC Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability led by Botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, made a number of recommendations, including suspension of LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into the allegations proceeded in line with international best practice.
The commission, which carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 also recommended the implementation of multi-sectoral reforms in Lesotho to nip in the bud the cycle of political instability.
Among the sectors recommended for reforms are security, public service, judiciary, legislative and media.
“The government has developed a blue print that will guide the implementation process,” Rtd Col Mothae said.
“SADC is coming to assist us in the event of resistance of the reform process. This support is particularly important because as a region and neighbours, if one-member state has challenges, the whole region is affected. The SADC Oversight Committee will ensure sustained conditions that would allow the reform process to take place.”
Led by retired Tanzanian judge, Justice Frederic Mwita Werema, the Oversight Committee was established by an extraordinary summit of the Double Troika on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa to monitor the implementation of SADC decisions regarding the political and security situation in Lesotho.
The committee was also tasked with providing assistance in the implementation of constitutional, security and public sector reforms in Lesotho.