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TRC urges action on militia groups

Bereng Mpaki

THE Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has urged security agencies to act on militia groups to avert a possible security crisis in the country.

The civic organisation has however, urged the security agencies to exercise caution in the process.

The call follows hard on the heels of concerns registered by the heads of local security agencies over the deteriorating security situation in the country due to the proliferation of militia groups.

The National Security Services (NSS), the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) recently warned that the militia groups pose a security threat to the country. The security chiefs say the militia groups are dangerous as they are made up of disgraced former members of the country’s national security agencies.

In recent months, the leaders of the warring factions of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) have appeared at rallies under the heavy guard of private security.

And a fortnight ago, the police averted a near bloodbath between the security guards from the two rival factions, one lead by Professor Nqosa Mahao and another sympathetic to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, when they tussled over the control of the party offices.

It is against this background that the security chiefs recently expressed concern over the militia groups.

“The national security chiefs wish to express their collective grave concern over the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country as a result of armed gangs established under the pretext of private personal protectors,” the recent statement from the security agencies reads.

“While we are aware that these ragtag security outfits are armed with licenced firearms, the greatest concern stems from the intelligence gathered to the effect that most of them (the protectors) are former national army servicemen and police officers.”

The security chiefs said they are aware that all the members of these militia groups left their respective jobs for dishonourable reasons among them indiscipline.

The security bosses said there was no justifiable reason for the establishment for such ragtag groupings and if there was any, then they would know. They added that it would be dereliction of duty on their part if they were to relinquish the role of protecting the country to rogue security outfits.

“That being the case, firstly it is the Director General NSS, the Commissioner of Police, and the LDF Chief of Defence Staff’s utmost concern as to what criteria was used for selection, employment and the deployment and purpose for the establishment of all these armed groupings. Secondly, the modus operandi of these groupings also pose a security threat not only to peace and stability of this country but also to the persons of those who are mandated to maintain it.”

The security chiefs also said it was regrettable that the use of the shabby militia culminated in “the unfortunate incident that occurred in the capital Maseru at Metcash Complex in the early hours of Tuesday, 18 June 2019”.

They also dispelled rumours that members of the police and the army cordoned off the ABC offices after the standoff.

“We highly suspect that the allegations came as a result of one or two members of those armed groupings which nearly came to a shootout who were masquerading as national army servicemen. We have intelligence to the effect that they put on a dress code more or less similar to that of military special operations teams (all of which are things of the past), and thereby misleading the public perception. And in a worrisome turn of events, while going about their duties in the streets of Maseru, some members of the national security institutions were threatened with death.”

And in response to the security agencies, the TRC has warned that further inaction by these institutions lead to undesirable consequences as has been the case in the past.

“Further inaction by the national security agencies is unacceptable because it is their constitutional mandate to uphold peace and stability in the country and though their involvement may have yielded terrible results in the past that should not be a prohibiting factor,” the TRC said.

The TRC also noted that the security institutions’ delay in responding to the militant groups could be understandable given the unpleasant results of abuse of the institutions by political leaders in the past.

“The security heads` skepticism to get involved is not misplaced. Lesotho has a troubled history with the politicisation of its security forces. The inception of these institutions, mechanisms of their control and accountability for their actions have largely been for the benefit of Lesotho`s political elite. The important principle of Civilian Control of the army though a requirement has been per vetted and abused by the ruling elite over time resulting in chaos and death both within these institutions and to civilians.

“It is therefore not farfetched to hid the army`s observation that these supposed security forces could actually be rogue militia intended to be used as instruments of coercion to cling on to or to acquire power. The TRC has strongly denounced the violation of human rights brought by security institutions under the control of politicians in the past and continues to condemn the use of these institutions for political interests as they belong to the state, neither a particular individual, political party nor government administration.

“It is worrying that the political elite in Lesotho, particularly those in government tend to create this instability and security crises as they have before, which makes us wonder if they have learnt anything at all from our troubled past with institutions of security in this country,” the TRC said.

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