Lesotho at crossroads
LESOTHO’S post-colonial history has been dominated by turmoil. Indeed for the past 20 years or so, SADC has had more trouble intervening in Lesotho than in any other state. This recurring instability probably accounts for the ever declining socio-economic performance of the country in the region.
At the centre of every crisis has been the politicised military which sees itself as government at best and a power broker at worst. As a result of that, all the weak governments which have emerged post-1986 coup have largely attempted to ingratiate themselves with the army as a survival tactic. In an apt observation about the behaviour of the army in Lesotho, the SADC Commission of Inquiry report notes:
“It is worth noting that this apparent disregard of civilian rule by the military in Lesotho has a long history. The military in Lesotho has been dogged by controversy and has a history of seizing power as evidenced by the 1986 MILITARY COUP, CONFLICTS OF 1994 AND 1998 AND the political and security unrest of 2007.”
It is under these circumstances that the Phumaphi Commission was set up to deal with the destabilisation of the army on the political process over the past two years. The Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry in particular was tasked to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder of Lt-gen Maaparankoe Mahao. In 20 years, SADC has intervened four times in Lesotho.
The recurring interventions of SADC can also be attributed to the unfinished business the body has been doing. It pampered the cracks rather than ensuring that before the end of its mission, security reforms were implemented. If anything, this demonstrates that Lesotho needs fundamental restructuring which will at the core be an emphasis on accountability and good governance.
The Phumaphi Report however is unique in that it is a means by which Lesotho’s political logjam is likely to be untied. It is so largely because it goes to the heart of the problem; impunity. The bargaining chip of the LDF has been to offer protection for politicians who in turn have left the army alone even when crimes are committed. But as will be detailed below, changing from a system controlled by the military to one under civilian control can never be easy and straight forward.
This is why several obstacles have been put and will continue to be put to delay the changes envisaged in the report. The success or failure of the envisaged changes does not only depend on the resolve of SADC, it also depends on the mobilisation of both the domestic and international public opinion and insisting on accountability as well as good governance.
Army Rebellion and killing of Mahao In an earlier article, I have argued that it is simplistic to trace the issues around the murder of Mahao and others like Ramahloko as issues which were impromptu and/or emerging recently. I attempted to show that the killings mentioned above were a culmination of a long-standing rebellion whose hallmarks were first the utterances of Hashatsi at the beginning of 2014 where he publicly declared that Lt. General Kamoli would be removed from office on his dead body. When cautioned by Brigadier Mahao about his statements, the latter was promptly suspended and court marshalled for talking out of turn.
The issue is that Hashatsi was not his own man but represented the general agreement of the LDF Command as was later confirmed in a press conference at Makoanyane barracks, where Lt. General Kamoli declared that he was not going to accept any dismissal. Thus Hashatsi, then captain was not disciplined for his actions. Civilian control over the military was thus publicly repudiated. This was the first public announcement of the looming coup.
Secondly, the refusal by the army Command to hand over suspects in several crimes including murder and the bombing of the residence of the then Prime Minister Thabane’s partner where children were injured was a clear sign that the military was out of control. It was a rebellious act which in all jurisdictions would have landed perpetrators in prison. Not only was this rebellious, but it was an indication that LDF members were out of control.
Finally the dramatic climb-down by then Prime Minister Thabane from cancelling Mahao’s court martial revealed all. Kamoli later argued that Prime Minister had been ill-advised and had apologised. If true, this would be an amazing turn of events where the Prime Minister has to apologise to his Commander This was climax of the rebellion. When therefore, then Prime Minister Thabane dismissed Kamoli, it was already too late.
The rebellion had gathered pace for more than seven months. It was just a question of time before the army would take control. That the coup did not succeed in August 2015 was a result of other extraneous circumstanc- es which are not part of this article.
The attempt to eliminate Mahao in August 2014 shortly after he was appointed Commander of the LDF, and later to kill him in July 2015 was thus part of a continuing struggle to quash any attempt to bring civilian control over the military. The argument here is that killing Ramahloko, and later Mahao was not a personal matter between them on the one hand and the LDF Command on the other.
It was geared to extinguish accountability and civilian control of over the army. In these circumstances therefore, the setting up of the Phumaphi Commission was bound to be seen as a major threat to those in both the army and the politicians whose survival was dependent on the former. Accordingly, the attempts to derail the outcome of the Phumaphi Commission should have been expected. Those were however bound to fail.
The Double Troika Summit In its Summit of the 18th January 2016 the SADC Double Troika in Gaborone, Botswana received and endorsed the Report of the Commission of Inquiry, and urged the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to implement its recommendations.
Three significant milestones can be identified about that Summit. The first is that SADC operates largely on the basis of consensus, but in this case the Lesotho Government was not in agreement with the decision of the Double Troika. It had steadfastly attempted to stop the publication of the Report. By endorsing the Report the Double Troika had now taken responsibility over its recommendations.
IT just can’t be easy being Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili. At least for now. Try putting yourself in the Prime Minister’s shoes and you will inevitably feel the invidious and unenviable position he is in now.
The Phumaphi Commission Report has just concluded what everyone among us, even those with pea sized brains had predicted: That our very own Paramount King of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) must be relieved off his duties because his actions are at the core of the crisis in Lesotho.
Let’s imagine for once that Ntate Mosisili decides to implement this recommendation as the only way to win the hearts and minds of vast swathes of Basotho who have been alienated by King Kamoli’s actions and the international community which had condemned the Paramount King’s return. The question is how will Ntate Mosisili implement such a tough decision?
In other words, who will he send with the letter of dismissal? Remember, we are talking of a Paramount King of the LDF who is virtually above the law. Who can pitch up at your house blow your nasty brains off with no consequences? Who can defy any court order and get away with it. Who can commit any kind of atrocity and not be held accountable. So which messenger will dare assume the task of delivering the dismissal letter to the King’s Makoanyane barracks should the Prime Minister choose the noble route of effecting the SADC recommendation?
Who will dare face the paramount King of not only the LDF, but the entire Basotho nation including all its flora and fauna, its fishes of Katse and Mohale Dam, all the Kingdom’s animals (including all the goats and sheep of Qacha and Mokhotlong) in addition to all the Kingdom’s plant life? Who will dare do that?
This partly explains why Ntate Mosisili had been at pains to pre-empt the Phumaphi commission report by repeatedly insisting that he would not be bound by its recommendations. I surely don’t envy the Prime Minister’s position right now. It’s not a good moment in literal terms to be a Size Two. Even though Ntate Mosisili is working in a coalition and he is bound to consult his colleagues, let us remember President Harry Truman’s perennial wisdom amplified on a sign board on his presidential desk declaring that: “The Buck Stops Here”. In our case the buck squarely stops on the Prime Minister’s desk. Whatever Ntate Mosisili chooses to do with the SADC report will surely define his legacy. Not that of the coalition government. Ntate Mosisili is already the Kingdom’s second longest serving Prime Minister after Leabua Jonathan. I have no doubt that Ntate Mosisili cares a lot about his legacy. The longer you serve in power, the greater your chances of creating a good legacy. Unlike Leabua, Ntate Mosisili can create a huge legacy for himself.
Let’s imagine again that Ntate Mosisili decides to fire Ntate Kamoli as per SADC recommendation and pitches up at Makoanyane barracks himself to deliver the dismissal letter? I would not opt for that route? The spectre of another premier being forced to run across the borders like dear old Uncle Thomas Motsoahae, is too galling to contemplate. It surely will make us a much more laughing stock of the world?
My personal position on the SADC recommendations are clear as I argued last week. I would want to see all the recommendations in the Phumaphi report implemented. That’s the only sure way of re-uniting the Basotho nation. If Ntate Mosisili can be that brave, he would have made a lasting impact on his legacy. He will win back the vast swathes of Basotho who have defected to Ntate Motsoahae. He will probably win over all those enraged by the brutal murder of Maaparankoe. The only way for Ntate Mosisili to create a last- ing legacy for himself is to put the national interests first ahead of those of individuals or an individual. If he does that, Ntate Mosisili would not even have to bother about a coalition at the next elections. He will win handsomely on his own. If he implements the Phumaphi commission resolutions in full, there is even a real possibility that Ntate Mosahae may defect from far flung Ficksburg to the Democratic Congress (DC). So will Ntate Maseribane, Auntie Keke and my most articulate and favoured opposition politician, young Joang Molapo. With all these people in the DC we will become a one party state.
A one party state is of course never the best scenario. But it will at least give us peace of mind and let us focus on issues of national development at the expense of our most favoured national pastime; politics and politicking. We will learn to love one another again as Basotho. Of course being Basotho, we will splinter again at a later stage and become a multi-party democracy. The good thing about it all then is that we won’t be plagued by the Paramount King and his rapacious militaristic shenanigans.
So to that end, Scrutator is offering herself as a volunteer to become the messenger to deliver the dismissal letter to the Paramount King on behalf of Ntate Mosisili should the Premier decide on the wise route of implementing the key Phumaphi commission recommendation to fire Ntate Kamoli.
Scrutator always puts her mouth where her money is and vice versa. So I don’t mind getting my brains blown out upon delivering the letter. Any slaying of Scrutator may also be the catalyst to cage the Paramount King. My friends, the Americans, will most likely deploy their military Iraq-style to deal with the problem once and for all. I bet, the Paramount King’s collection of old North Korean and Soviet style weaponry, assisted by a few dilapidated tanks, will stand no chance against the infantry of Uncle Sam’s.
But let’s not take things that far? After all, we don’t have any oil. It might be too ambitious for me to think that, even though they like me and would invade for my sake, my American friends can deploy only to get disappointed at finding no oil and gas but only sheep and goats.
What cannot be disputed is the vital importance of assisting Ntate Mosisili find the best formula of implementing the SADC resolution to jettison the Paramount King.
Again to that end, there is another alternative if the Premier does not see it fit to send Scrutator to deliver the Paramount King’s dismissal letter.
“What if the Paramount King himself embraces the report and acts in the national interest by quitting voluntarily? Just imagine Ntate Kamoli making the following announcement on national radio and television.
“I have received and read the Phumaphi Commission Report. I have fully understood it even though it was not written in Sesotho as you all know that I don’t like the Queen’s language…..
“Central to the report is its recommendation that I be relieved of all my duties at the helm of the LDF. In the interests of this nation that I love so much, I have decided to resign voluntarily. I don’t want to burden Ntate Mosisili and his coalition partners with the burden of trying to fire me. I know this is not an option that they will easily consider because they know I can hack the shit out of them.
“After all they are beneficiaries of my actions. I put them back to power. If I had not sent Ntate Motsoahae and Liabiloe across the border only, then there will never have been 28 February 2015 elections in the first place and the DC led coalition will never have come back into power. So I want to thank Ntate Mosisili and his coalition partners for acknowledging my efforts and returning me to the helm of the LDF.
“In Africa we say one good turn deserves another. But in the interests of this nation and because of the gravity of my actions which prompted the unprecedented Phumaphi commission of inquiry, I want to take responsibility of all that has gone wrong and resign with immediate effect. I thank you all for either supporting me or opposing me during my most exciting tenure as Paramount King of the LDF and this Kingdom at large. But I think to save this nation from any further chaos and to enable Ntate Mosisili to perform the gigantic task of re-uniting all Basotho so we can focus on real national development issues (instead of being constantly at each other’s throat), I have decided to resign from my post voluntarily in lieu of the Phumaphi commission recommendation.”
You might condemn the above scenario as Scrutator’s radical form of wishful thinking. But let’s just imagine that a miracle indeed happens and the Paramount King takes this bold step and makes the above suggested announcement. I don’t know what the rest of you will do but I will rush to his side and offer myself to become his second, third, fourth or even fifth wife should Ntate Kamoli decide to emulate Jacob Zuma and prepare adequately for his time outside the LDF.
There will also be no reason why Ntate Mosisili cannot then elevate Ntate Kamoli to become Lesotho’s ambassador to America, the UK or the Netherlands. But definitely not to the wretched South Sudan where Cyril Ramaphosa had wanted to dump him during that period of the Paramount King’s temporary exile alongside the young man Khothatso and Maaparankoe. As the Paramount King’s new spouse, I will make the point to Ntate Mosisili that we will need to be posted to a safe, clean, El nino free place where we will enjoy life and leave all of you wallowing in the hardships of the current drought.
If the Paramount King does not voluntarily step aside and Ntate Mosisili flinches at the spectre of sending Scrutator to deliver the dismissal letter, then we are left with no option but to accept that the Paramount King is indeed our God.
Most of you who passed through the halls of NUL or alternatively flirted with secondary school history would have heard of a man called Idi Amin Dada. But to those who did not have the good fortune of passing through the gates of any school, Amin was the vile commander in the Ugandan army who toppled Milton Obote, and ruled Uganda with an iron fist for about nine years until 1979.
Amin became so drunk with power and put himself above the law. He then bestowed on himself the most glorious of titles and became: “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor, Professor, Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conquerer of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.” In addition Amin sent a unit of his so called special forces to drag the Vice Chancellor of the once prestigious Makerere University to State House. Amin then forced the Vice Chancellor to bestow on him a doctorate of laws degree while also sending a telegram to Queen Elizabeth claiming that he (Amin) was the uncrowned King of Scotland.
If Ntate Kamoli remains at the helm of the LDF after the damning verdict of the Phumaphi commission report, I equally suggest an adaption of his title to become: “His Excellency Tlali Kennedy Kamoli, Professor, Doctor, Paramount King, Lord of the High Heavens; The Ever Untouchable Commander of the LDF, Lord of all the Beasts of Lesotho and all the fishes of Katse and Mohale Dams, Conqueror of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in general and its Phumaphi Commission in particular, Uncrowned King of Africa.”
I would also support Ntate Kamoli dispatching Tefo Hashatsi to summon the Vice Chancellor of NUL, who also happens to be Maaparankoe’s brother, to bestow a doctorate of Good Laws and Ethical Practices on the LDF commander.
Any Mosotho who will not address Ntate Kamoli with the full title as suggested above would need to be summarily executed for Ntate’s high status and rein over the Kingdom would have become uncontestable. Aren’t these interesting times?
Prime minister Pakalitha mosisili