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State wanted to extend security chiefs’ exile: Mphaka  

 

Keiso Mohloboli

GOVERNMENT wanted to extend the exile of its three security chiefs to May this year to ensure stability post the 28 February general elections, an official yesterday told the Sunday Express.

Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)’s Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, as well as Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s Khothatso Tšooana were sent on special leave on 21 November 2014 to allow the restoration of peace between the two feuding security agencies.

Lt Gen Mahao and Commissioner Tšooana went to Juba in South Sudan and Algiers in Algeria respectively, while Lt Gen Kamoli was destined for Khartoum in Sudan. However, Lt Gen Kamoli refused to leave South Africa for his destination in protest over government’s decision to stop his salary.

Meanwhile, according to Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka, the government last month requested Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government and the African Union (AU) to extend the three men’s leave of absence.

“Both Lt Gen Mahao and Commissioner Tšooana are back in South Africa following the expiry of their commissions on 20 February in South Sudan and Algeria, respectively. Lt Gen Kamoli never left South Africa as expected due to his salary issue.

“However, government had requested both SADC and the AU to extend their stay at their respective destinations until the end of May 2015 to make sure relations had really returned to normal between the army and police.

“Up to now, a decision has not been made on whether the requests are going to be accepted or not. Again because there is going to be a new government, the situation could change and they might come home anytime now,” Mr Mphaka said.

SADC Head of Mission in Lesotho, Fannie Phakola, yesterday said the region’s Heads of State and Government would decide when the three security chiefs would be back in Lesotho. The regional bloc brokered the deal that sent the trio into exile to ensure peace prevailed in the run up to — and soon after —the 28 February 2015 snap elections.

The Democratic Congress (DC) led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili edged Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention in the poll, winning 47 seats while the latter took 46. The DC has since entered into an alliance with six other political parties and formed government and Dr Mosisili is expected to be sworn in as the new prime minister on 17 March. He was previously premier between 1998 and 2012 when a coalition of three parties, led by Dr Thabane, took over.

Meanwhile, Lt Gen Mahao yesterday said he does not know what the future holds for him since the government that appointed him army commander was no more. Dr Thabane appointed Lt Gen Mahao the new LDF commander on 29 August after dismissing Lt Gen Kamoli for alleged insubordination. However, Lt Gen Kamoli refused to accept the dismissal, leading to a standoff and SADC’s intervention through the Maseru Security Accord signed on 23 October 2014.

The incoming government on Wednesday announced that Lt Gen Kamoli would be LDF commander, leaving Lt Gen Mahao’s position unclear.

Lt Gen Mahao said: “The position of commander is a political appointment. If the incoming government wants me to command the LDF, then I would consider the offer. And I want it to be very clear that I am saying I would consider it, and it’s very different from saying I would accept it. I am not bound to work with the new government.

“On the other hand, if the government of the day tells me to retire, then I will accept that without hesitation provided the terms are fair.”

Commissioner Tšooana also said he did not know when he would be back in Lesotho.

“Nothing has been said about my return to Lesotho, but there is a new government coming into power on 19 March 2015, so hopefully, we would be home soon,” Commissioner Tšooana said.

Repeated efforts to get Lt Gen Kamoli’s comment yesterday were not successful.

 

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