Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

THE long awaited SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry re­port into Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity has called for the dis­missal of Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli as Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der, de­scrib­ing the con­duct of the LDF un­der his com­mand as “dis­con­cert­ing”.

Fir­ing Lt-gen Kamoli would re­store cred­i­bil­ity and trust of the army by the gen­er­al­ity of Ba­sotho, the re­port con­cludes.

It re­mains to be seen whether the govern­ment will im­ple­ment the mea­sure af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili re­it­er­ated this week that the in­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions were not bind­ing. Dr Mo­sisili said the govern­ment would pick and choose the rec­om­men­da­tions it would im­ple­ment af­ter study­ing the re­port while oth­ers would not see the light of day ( see story on Page 7). A SADC dou­ble troika com­mu­niqué last month urged the govern­ment to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions.

The re­port, which was au­thored by a 10 mem­ber SADC com­mis­sion of in­quiry led by Botswana High Court judge, Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi, was fi­nally tabled in the Na­tional As­sem­bly by Dr Mo­sisili this week af­ter an orig­i­nal stale­mate in which the re­gional body had de­manded the re­lease of the re­port by 1 Fe­bru­ary 2016, fail­ing which it would re­lease it uni­lat­er­ally. SADC sub­se­quently ac­qui­esced to Dr Mo­sisili’s re­quest to de­lay the re­lease of the re­port by a week un­til the Na­tional As­sem­bly’s open­ing on Mon­day 8 Au­gust 2016.

The re­port “strongly rec­om­mends” that LtGen Kamoli be re­lieved of his du­ties in the “in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the LDF to the Ba­sotho na­tion”.

The SADC com­mis­sion of in­quiry was con­sti­tuted by re­gional le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts and was in­stalled at the re­quest of Dr Mo­sisili af­ter the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer LDF com­man­der, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao on 25 June 2015. Lt-gen Ma­hao was gunned down by LDF mem­bers al­legedly as he re­sisted ar­rest for a sus­pected mutiny which the re­port also dis­misses as a prob­a­ble “fab­ri­ca­tion”.

The probe was held be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015, cul­mi­nat­ing in the 62-page re­port ti­tled “SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the death of Bri­gadier Maa­parankoe Ma­hao”.

The re­port also ad­dresses the al­leged mutiny within the army, al­leged killings and kid­nap­pings of op­po­si­tion mem­bers and for­mer LDF mem­bers as well as the ap­point­ments and re­movals of Lt-gen Ma­hao and Lt-gen Kamoli among other is­sues.

Ac­cord­ing to the find­ings of the re­port, the for­mer army chief’s life was un­der threat be­fore he was gunned down by his army col­leagues in Mokema. The threats in­ten­si­fied af­ter Lt-gen Ma­hao was ap­pointed LDF boss on 29 Au­gust 2014 af­ter then premier Thomas Tha­bane fired Lt-gen Kamoli, who how­ever, main­tained he was still the army chief.

“. . . there were con­sis­tent and per­sis­tent threats on Bri­gadier Ma­hao’s life by some mem­bers of the LDF who would pub­licly, be­fore mil­i­tary pa­rades de­clare that Bri­gadier Ma­hao will be shot if he could set foot in mili- tary bar­racks. Th­ese ut­ter­ances and pre­vi­ous at­tempts on his life man­i­fest a de­sire to have him dead,” reads part of the re­port.

It also notes that the army op­er­a­tion that re­sulted in the death of Lt-gen Ma­hao was au­tho­rised by De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Tšeliso Mokhosi.

“But (it) lacked con­trol mech­a­nisms in that the Honourable Min­is­ter did not in­sist on be­ing kept abreast as the op­er­a­tion un­folded, nei­ther did the LDF find it nec­es­sary to keep him in­formed,” the re­port states.

On a bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties, says the re­port, the ev­i­dence shows that Bri­gadier Ma­hao did not re­sist ar­rest.

“Even if it is ac­cepted that he pointed a pis­tol at one of the ar­restors, ex­ces­sive force was used, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the first shot, which im­mo­bilised his right arm, thus, the ad­di­tional two shots were un­nec­es­sary,” reads the re­port.

“There­fore, the de­gree of force used on the de­ceased was not com­men­su­rate to the dan­ger he posed with the pis­tol.”

The re­port also finds that Lt-gen Kamoli’s re­turn to the helm of the LDF on 21 May 2015 fol­low­ing his re­in­state­ment by Dr Mo­sisili re­sulted in more divi­sions in the army and in­sta­bil­ity in the coun­try.

“The re-ap­point­ment of Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Kamoli per­pet­u­ated the divi­sions within the LDF as he vowed to deal with those who cel­e­brated his re­moval, as ev­i­denced by flee­ing sol­diers and that he caused some of­fi­cers to re­sign,” it notes.

“. . . the flee­ing of op­po­si­tion party lead­ers af­ter Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Kamoli’s reap­point­ment and par­lia­men­tary boy­cott by op­po­si­tion amounts to political in­sta­bil­ity. Th­ese political chal­lenges, if not ar­rested, might spiral out of con­trol with the con­se­quence of fail­ing the cur­rent govern­ment.”

The re­port also takes note of the army chief’s re­fusal to hand over to the po­lice LDF mem­bers ac­cused of com­mit­ting var­i­ous crimes.

“This dis­re­gard for the rule of law by the LDF, is ev­i­denced by ex­ist­ing war­rants of ar­rests on some mem­bers of LDF in­clud­ing Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Kamoli charged with high trea­son aris­ing from the 30th Au­gust 2014 un­rests,” notes the re­port.

The com­mis­sion also ob­serves that the LDF’S man­date of deal­ing with in­ter­nal dis­or­der, main­te­nance of law and or­der as well as preven­tion of crime over­lapped with that of the po­lice. As a re­sult, it notes that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Lt-gen Ma­hao’s death had been stopped.

“The Com­mis­sion is per­suaded to be­lieve that this move was cal­cu­lated to hide the fact that the LDF hin­dered the in­ves­ti­ga­tions. “The facts are that the LDF re­fused to sur­ren­der phys­i­cal ev­i­dence (weapons and ve­hi­cles used and the de­ceased’s mo­bile phones).”

The in­quiry con­cludes its find­ings by not­ing the “deep rooted” politi­ci­sa­tion of the se­cu­rity sec­tor “es­pe­cially the LDF and LMPS (Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice) as it was wit­nessed that some mem­bers of the said in­sti­tu­tions ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in pol­i­tics.

In light of its find­ings, the re­port rec­om­mends Lt-gen Kamoli’s dis­missal, stat­ing that the con­duct of the LDF un­der his com­mand was “dis­con­cert­ing”.

“In the in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the LDF to the Ba­sotho na­tion, it is strongly rec­om­mended that Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Kamoli be re­lieved of his du­ties as Com­man­der LDF, and all LDF 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 re­port states.

“The Govern­ment of Le­sotho should en­sure that the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the death of Bri­gadier Ma­hao be pur­sued vig­or­ously and that the LMPS is em­pow­ered and re­sourced ac­cord­ingly.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be con­ducted ex­pe­di­tiously and com­pre­hen­sively with­out any hin­drances and that all phys­i­cal ev­i­dence be sur­ren­dered. The fi­nal­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions should lead to a trans­par­ent course of jus­tice.”

The com­mis­sion calls for a re­view of the con­sti­tu­tion with re­gard to the “de­fi­cien­cies and over­laps” in the man­dates of se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions.

“SADC should come up with a di­rect strat­egy on how to as­sist Le­sotho in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of th­ese re­forms, and that the Le­sotho Over­sight Com­mit­tee, es­tab­lished by the 3rd July 2015 Dou­ble Troika is op­er­a­tionalised,” it said.

On the al­leged mutiny, the com­mis­sion noted that some of the com­plainants in the court mar­tial par­tic­i­pated in the ar­rest of the sus­pects, “which is a clear con­flict sit­u­a­tion as they have per­sonal in­ter­est in the cases”.

“When this ev­i­dence is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion with that of the sus­pects sub­jected to tor­ture, the ob­ject be­ing to ex­tract con­fes­sions from them, as well as the ev­i­dence that LtGen Kamoli him­self, when he was reap­pointed as Com­man­der of the LDF, stated that he would deal with those who cel­e­brated this ter­mi­na­tion in 2014, it makes the whole case of mutiny highly sus­pect,” the re­port states.

“In th­ese cir­cum­stances, we rec­om­mend a fa­cil­i­ta­tion of an amnesty that will cover the de­tained mutiny sus­pects and en­sure the safe re­turn of all mem­bers of the LDF who have fled Le­sotho in fear for their lives.”

LDF com­man­der lieu­tenant-gen­eral tlali Kamoli.

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