I beg to differ Ntate Mosisili
IHOPE all those who have invested their faith in MMM as a source of quick wealth have heeded my advice over the last two weeks and jettisoned this crooked scheme. If you haven’t and are still pouring money into the MMM scam, you cannot be helped. I am thus abandoning you to dwell on an important subject that my prime minister raised recently.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is adamant that Lesotho needs an army. He has also reiterated his view that it’s better for us to misgovern ourselves rather than be governed well by others. Very high sounding pitches indeed.
Ntate Mosisili scolded Basotho and foreign nationals who suggest Lesotho does not need an army at all, according to a recent report in the Sunday Express.
Ntate Mosisili said such negative sentiments come from people who are “lost” and do not appreciate the various roles played by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in different sections of society.
The premier insisted Lesotho “is a sovereign state and it’s up to us to know what we need and what we do not need because we fought for our independence”.
Ntate Mosisili made these remarks while addressing an LDF pass-out parade of 304 recruits at Makoanyane Military Barracks. He said that in addition to its defence role, the army performed many other development functions hence its critical importance to the country.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I will repeat verbatim the quotes attributed to him.
“I would like to point out something shocking I have read from our publications and heard on our radios that Lesotho does not need an army. ……There are even foreigners who speak the same language that Lesotho does not need an army,” remarked Ntate Mosisili.
“Those are things said by people who are lost. Having been the Head of His Majesty’s government for four times now, I know the decision by Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan to form an army for Lesotho was the right one. Just like I have pointed out, the army does not just fight for our people through the use of arms, but also engages in many activities in other sectors of our economy.
“Basotho children should not be saying we do not need an army; such thoughts should not be coming from them. I also call to order foreigners who are saying we do not need an army; it’s not their concern whether we have an army or not.
“Lesotho is a sovereign state and it’s up to us to know what we need and what we do not need because we fought for our independence,” said Dr Mosisili.
“When our leaders said the British should leave our house, our forefathers made a statement I always remember — that it is better to misgovern ourselves than to be governed well by others”.
Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with Ntate Mosisili’s points of view. Sovereign nations have every right to make their choices. So it is within our right as a sovereign nation to have an army or any other institution of choice.
However, on the question of the army, I have to differ with my Prime Minister and insist on my point of view that having a well-equipped army should never be our priority.
The caustic and maleficent role that the army has played in Lesotho’s politics is a matter of public record, prompting many to question whether we indeed need an army.
One foreigner who has been most emphatic on the subject is former South African central bank governor Tito Mboweni.
Mboweni went as far as suggesting a federal arrangement wherein Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa could remain autonomous regions with South Africa assuming the role of maintaining and footing the bill of a regional army to protect this federal arrangement.
This would then enable Swaziland and Lesotho to plough the resources they are using in maintaining their armies into important social services.
Let me state upfront that my disdain for using our scare resources on maintaining any army does not emanate from any dislike of King Kamoli. Far from it.
My preference of us not having an army, as suggested by Mboweni, stems from compelling reality. To illustrate my point, I have to ask the question I have asked many times before. What is the traditional role of an army?
The purpose of any army is primarily to defend any sovereign nation against external threats or enemies with the police being responsible for any nation’s internal policing matters. Who therefore constitute Lesotho’s external enemies requiring us to maintain an army? The answer is zilch?
Even if we had external enemies. Our natural geographical circumstances are our best protection. We are one of only two countries in the world wholly surrounded by another. We are totally unreachable. Who would dare transverse the entirety of South Africa to come and attack us? We are untouchable and unreachable because of our geography.
Our unique geographic situation is our best protection. This leaves South Africa as the only potential enemy within easy reach of us. Let’s assume Ntate Mosisili fights with Jacob Zuma at one of those highly charged SADC summits and the Nkandla crooner decided to deploy his might Southern African National Defence Force (SANDF) to decimate us.
Would King Kamoli and his men and women have the stamina to repel the mighty SANDF, even if the latter deploys a tiny fraction of its entire might? Me thinks not. It’s a good thing that South Africa will not invade us. That possibility has long vanished with the demise of apartheid. This means we effectively face no external threat against which we require an army.
But let’s be hypothetical and imagine that South Africa finds reason to invade. In that case, we will have to all throw up our hands in the air and accept becoming a colony again. King Kamoli and his men won’t stand a chance.
This partly explains why many small countries in our mould, with no real prospects of defending themselves, have opted to either exist without armies (and avoid creating enemies) or have simply outsourced their protection to other bigger countries.
In this sense, Mboweni is right that we are better off outsourcing our protection to South Africa. In place of the LDF, we remain with the LMPS to oversee internal policing.
Ntate Mosisili thinks the LDF did a good job in thwarting the several terrorist attacks attempted on the homes of ministers and on the premier himself during the period 2007 to 2009. That maybe so.
But Ntate Mosisili forgets that some of these attacks were perpetrated by rogue elements of the LDF itself. Let’s not forget the role of Makotoko Lerotholi (aka Mashai), a former LDF member, in leading that heinous attack on Ntate Mosisili.
Mashai had the stamina of leading men to rob Makoanyane barracks to rob arms to use in attacking a sitting Prime Minister. I was furious and condemned Mashai in the strongest possible terms. Because Lesotho’s army has never had to fight a foreign enemy, it tends to be inward looking.
If we never had an army, it means that the 1998 mutiny which threatened Ntate Mosisili’s grip on power, would never have occurred. It means the heinous attacks on the houses of several ministers and on Prime Minister Mosisili himself throughout 2007 and 2009 would never have occurred.
It means Leabua Jonathan’s buffoonery in ignoring the outcome of a democratic election and ruling unimpeded for 17 years at the expense of Ntate Ntsu would never have happened.
It we did not have an army, it means August 30 2014 would never have occurred. It means Maaparankoe would still be alive. It means we would not be having SADC snorting its long nose in our internal affairs. Mpaphi Phumaphi would never have occurred. It means we would be well focused on issues of national development. Wouldn’t be that a nice thing Prime Minister?
Of course bontate Mosisili and Mokhosi (the defence minister) are right that the army has other roles to play in the nation. It’s true that the army is playing a vital role in working with the Ministry of Health in encouraging voluntary male circumcision programmes to reduce HIV/ Aids.
The army can also help communities in different ways like during natural disasters etc. But the fundamental question remains that these are not the primary roles of any army. Armies exist to defend a country against external threats. Let’s consider another poignant example. Suppose Ntate Mosisili heeds Mboweni’s advice and outsources our army to South Africa. All our soldiers are then transferred to be part of the SANDF. We dispose our entire armoury and are left with not a single penny to splurge on the army.
Let’s imagine that Ntate Mosisili then spends the billions saved on Defence in rebuilding Maseru, ensuring that we have proper flushing toilets and running water, proper tarred roads in the various villages of the city with proper street names.
Let’s also assume this money is invested in equipping schools, clinics and hospitals around Maseru. I will bet a pound of my flesh that Ntate Mosisili will never lose an election in any urban Maseru constituency again. He will reclaim all the Maseru seats his party has lost to the ABC with pride.
There could be another added benefit from Mboweni’s suggestion. With all our soldiers seconded to South Africa in a federal security arrangement, King Kamoli would then qualify to become commander of the SANDF.
Imagine King Kamoli at the helm of the SANDF. In light of the SANDF’S growing continental role, Africa would then be rid of Boko Haram and Al Shaabab.
In disagreeing with my Prime Minister on the need of an army, I might be sounding like an errant child. But the facts speak for themselves. Many small countries with no real external enemies nor real prospects of defending themselves against powerful neighbours have opted for a life without armies. Costa Rica, Haiti and Grenada have no standing armies but limited military forces after undergoing deliberate demilitarization processes.
Other countries with no standing armies at all are Andorra, Dominica, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and the Vatican City. Countries with no standing armies but limited military forces to protect certain special interests like maritime activities are Iceland, Mauritius, Monaco, Panama and Vanuatu.
Some countries with no standing armies have signed treaties with others to protect them such as Andorra’s agreement with Spain and France. Australia is responsible for Nauru’s defence under an informal agreement between the two countries.
Only an 8 000 member National Police Force is responsible for domestic law enforcement in Mauritius. There is no army in Mauritius. But hey, look at how prosperous all the above small countries are. The only exception is that constant hapless basket case: Haiti.
Just imagine for a moment a life in Lesotho without military coups (real or attempted), Prime Ministers being forced to flee across the borders at midnight. A small country at peace with itself. We would all love it. Ntate Mosisili, you are passionate about the army.
But on this one, I disagree with you my Prime Minister. Take my advice and outsource our army to the Nkandla crooner on a trial basis. Invest resources saved in the areas I have suggested above.
Lesotho will ieft off. As per your suggestion that it’s better to misgovern ourselves than be governed by others, that’s surely a story for another day.
Prime minister Pakalitha mosisili