Could Ma­hao’s killing have been a com­mand?

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THE killing of Maa­parankoe Ma­hao by the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF), an in­sti­tu­tion which by right was sup­posed to pro­tect him, shocked Ba­sotho within and be­yond the ter­ri­to­rial borders of this King­dom.

Given the par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal con­text and the mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho within which Mr Ma­hao’s de­par­ture oc­curs, it may un­der­stand­ably not be easy to find solem­nity in the wide spec­tra of de­bate over this is­sue in the public sphere.

While some peo­ple are an­gry, shocked with fear, con­fused and in a state of de­spair, oth­ers are re­ported to be cel­e­brat­ing. Though this is un­be­liev­able, it has oc­curred on sev­eral recorded times that when one per­son is as­sas­si­nated and some cry oth­ers stand in ap­plause.

None of the di­ver­si­ties of this so­ci­ety other than the realm of pol­i­tics and per­haps busi­ness could be so cruel to sow this seed in the hearts and minds of the Ba­sotho na­tion.

In these cir­cum­stances, many views are ex­pressed. Some want the res­ig­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili and the LDF com­man­der Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli.

Oth­ers are call­ing for civil war and sus­pect the killing was part of a long term plan by the lead­ers of cur­rent coali­tion. Many want re­venge while oth­ers ut­ter bar­baric state­ments in mock­ery.

A very lit­tle num­ber call for calm and ap­peal to the na­tion to use the pain be­ing felt to chart the way to­wards peace and im­press upon po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to stop their gim­micks over the is­sue.

In the midst of many views, the ques­tion that one can­not avoid to pon­der on is whether his killing was a com­mand or not? In an ef­fort to add a voice to the mi­nor­ity who opt for peace, this ar­ti­cle en­gages the ques­tion and con­tin­u­ally for peace.

An­swer­ing it truly, fairly, hon­estly and con­vinc­ingly would surely re­verse the wrong di­rec­tion Le­sotho is tak­ing.

At least it is now clear that Mr Ma­hao lost his life at the hands of the LDF, the in­sti­tu­tion he served and led at var­i­ous lev­els in­clud­ing that of the first soldier of His Majesty. The gov­ern­ment state­ment that Mr Ma­hao was shot in the op­er­a­tion that LDF is im­ple­ment­ing.

Though the gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of re­luc­tance in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple on im­por­tant mat­ters, clar­ity on the mat­ter re­mains crit­i­cal. The mes­sage whose con­tent is not ob­vi­ous calls for the sim­i­lar public re­ac­tion.

While gov­ern­ment should be able to pro­vide for­mal and re­li­able in­for­ma­tion timeously to pro­tect peo­ple from mak­ing con­clu­sions and de­ci­sions on lim­ited facts which are un­ver­i­fied, such in­for­ma­tion can­not be pas­sively as­sim­i­lated. The mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion is an au­thor­i­ta­tive com­mand un­der­taken by sol­diers with lit­tle if any changes.

Read for com­pre­hen­sion, the gov­ern­ment state­ment con­firms that the op­er­a­tion was for­mal and le­gal. It was there­fore au­tho­rised. One would take it that the op­er­a­tion was aimed at ar­rest­ing some mem­bers of the LDF as its pur­pose is es­poused in the gov­ern­ment state­ment and not at killing Mr Ma­hao or any per­son for that mat­ter. The life of Mr Ma­hao was lost in the op­er­a­tion that the gov­ern­ment state­ment is re­fer­ring to.

In the same state­ment, gov­ern­ment has said it was an ac­ci­dent. Read to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion, the ac­ci­dent denotes that there was a dis­tor­tion or mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the op­er­a­tion ei­ther in its ob­jec­tive or ex­e­cu­tion. If the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion is flawed, is it not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the lead­er­ship and there­fore the law­ful holder of the op­er­a­tion to act?

In the nor­mal cir­cum­stances, would the le­gal holder of the op­er­a­tion find it awk­ward to con­demn the act and chart the way for­ward? If the United Na­tions in New York can con­demn, the African Union in Ad­dis Ababa can con­demn, SADC in Gaborone can con­demn the as­sas­si­na­tion of Ma­hao and the Khokanyana-phiri at the Qho­boshea­neng, and the le­gal holder of the op­er­a­tion for that mat­ter does not con­demn, would Ba­sotho in­di­vid­u­ally, col­lec­tively and oth­er­wise jus­ti­fi­ably ask whether it was a com­mand?

In the un­likely event that the coali­tion gov­ern­ment would ask this col­umn what the path to peace from here should be, the re­sponse would be broader than pre­cise, per­sua­sive than in­struc­tional and en­gag­ing than con­fronta­tional and it would be as fol­lows.

The as­sas­si­na­tion of this leader can make or de­stroy Ba­sotho as a na­tion. Dr Mo­sisili should come out boldly and de­nounce the pre­med­i­ta­tion of the killing of Mr Ma­hao by the army, con­demn the killing and pro­nounce that it was never part of the com­mand and fur­ther say that the per­pe­tra­tors will be taken to court as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Fur­ther­more, pro­nounce gov­ern­ment com­mit­ment to come out clean on the le­git­i­macy and con­duct of the op­er­a­tion that has been on for weeks now and com­mis­sion an au­dit to look at the ba­sis of the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ab­ducted sol­diers, al­le­ga­tions of tor­ture, dis­re­spect of the courts etc.

Such a state­ment would not only in­tel­lec­tu­ally sat­isfy the peo­ple but shall emo­tion­ally bring them to­gether. The re­sponse would go on to say that the prime min­is­ter, as the leader of gov­ern­ment, should en­ter into talks with lead­ers of the op­po­si­tion who are still out­side the coun­try.

He would then con­vince them to come back home and as­sure their safety and then em­bark on ro­bust di­a­logue with them and other lead­ers on the way through which Le­sotho can be taken back to nor­malcy.

The premier would also deal with the out­stand­ing gov­er­nance is­sues lin­ger­ing at the in­ter­na­tional stage.

If the premier takes this route, it would re­as­sure Ba­sotho that con­trol of the army still re­sides in the civil­ian au­thor­ity and help heal wounds and clar­ify the vi­sion of this na­tion to­wards a com­mon peace­ful des­tiny.

If he does not take this route and peo­ple con­tinue to ask­ing if the killing of Ma­hao had been a com­mand, do not blame the col­umn for not ad­vis­ing.

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