De­mil­i­tari­sa­tion: A vi­able re­form op­tion

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Tlo­hang W Let­sie

The gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho has, in the re­cent months re­it­er­ated its com­mit­ment to en­gage in se­cu­rity re­forms as one way of search­ing for peace and sta­bil­ity in the coun­try. If fi­nally im­ple­mented, such re­forms would hope­fully bring to an end the peren­nial cen­tral­ity of the coun­try’s se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ments in po­lit­i­cal con­flicts. Since Le­sotho is a demo­cratic coun­try, it is im­per­a­tive that de­lib­er­a­tions about this vi­tal step not be con­fined to high of­fices, but be in the pub­lic space where all the in­ter­ested stake­hold­ers can make an in­put. It is on the ba­sis of this un­der­stand­ing that this ar­ti­cle has been writ­ten.

This ar­ti­cle ex­am­ines one ex­treme op­tion of se­cu­rity re­form avail­able for con­sid­er­a­tion by Le­sotho. This op­tion is de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion. This ex­am­i­na­tion is made from a peace­build­ing per­spec­tive and premised on two the­o­ret­i­cal un­der­pin­nings namely that (a) de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion is a struc­ture for peace­build­ing, and (b) mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture hin­ders eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

Con­tex­tual frame­work It is im­por­tant that some of the key con­cepts in this dis­cus­sion are clar­i­fied from the on­set. Such con­cepts in­clude peace, se­cu­rity sec­tor, and de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion. For the pur­pose of this dis­cus­sion peace is de­fined not as merely the ab­sence of war, but as the ab­sence of vi­o­lence in all its types. There are three ty­polo­gies of vi­o­lence namely di­rect, struc­tural and cul­tural vi­o­lence.

Di­rect vi­o­lence amounts to phys­i­cal ag­gres­sion and is man­i­fested in var­i­ous forms of in­ten­tional bod­ily harm, in­clud­ing killing, maim­ing, siege, and any other form of force to the body that causes harm and af­front to ba­sic hu­man needs. Struc­tural vi­o­lence, on the other hand, man­i­fests it­self in the pres­ence of social struc­tures that pro­mote ex­ploita­tion and re­pres­sion.

It usu­ally en­ables some ac­tors in so­ci­ety to ben­e­fit from the un­equal ex­change and the plight of the dis­ad­van­taged. Cul­tural vi­o­lence re­lates to an ex­is­tence of any as­pect of cul­ture that can be used to jus­tify, or le­git­imise di­rect or struc­tural vi­o­lence. It makes the acts per­pet­u­ated as a re­sult of struc­tural and di­rect vi­o­lence to seem as nor­mal.

The no­tion of se­cu­rity sec­tor de­notes both for­mal and in­for­mal se­cu­rity for­ma­tions in a given coun­try, in­clud­ing those civil in­sti­tu­tions that play an over­sight role over the op­er­a­tion of these se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions. In this ar­ti­cle, the fo­cus is mainly on only one el­e­ment within the Le­sotho se­cu­rity sec­tor — the mil­i­tary.

Like many other social science con­cepts, de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion has been de­fined in nu­mer­ous con­texts de­pend­ing on par­tic­u­lar us­ages. For its pur­pose, this ar­ti­cle adopts Bar­bey’s def­i­ni­tion that takes de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion as “a process of dis­man­tling mil­i­tary forces and dis­pos­ing of weapons that leads, if de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion is to­tal, to a state of non-mil­i­tari­sa­tion”. In order to make a ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion about their mil­i­tary, Ba­sotho need to un­der­stand what the roles of the mil­i­taries through­out the world are gen­er­ally taken to be. This is at­tempted in the next sec­tion.

Roles of mil­i­taries In­ter­na­tion­ally, the roles of mil­i­taries can be cat­e­gorised into two — tra­di­tional and se­condary roles. Au­thors who have writ­ten about mil­i­taries gen­er­ally agree that “the tra­di­tional role of any mil­i­tary has been ter­ri­to­rial de­fence against at­tack or de­ter­ring threats from the forces of other states, in ad­di­tion to pro­ject­ing power abroad in de­fence of ter­ri­tory and the state’s in­ter­ests”.

There are sev­eral se­condary roles of armies that in­clude the fol­low­ing: First is the in­ter­nal order. Usu­ally, armies are called to come to the as­sis­tance of the po­lice when­ever the lat­ter is over­whelmed with its op­er­a­tions of main­tain­ing in­ter­nal order.

Sec­ond is dis­as­ter man­age­ment. States use their mil­i­taries as a sup­port for other gov­ern­ment agen­cies in times of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters or other emer­gen­cies. Third is in­ter­na­tional peace­keep­ing. With the na­ture of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics in­creas­ingly shift­ing to the for­ma­tion of a “glob­alised vil­lage”, where the prob­lems of a par­tic­u­lar coun­try be­come a con­cern for other coun­tries, the phe­nom­e­non of mil­i­tary en­gage­ment abroad is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing pop­u­lar.

Fourth is na­tional pride. Mil­i­taries can also be a sign of sta­tus for their re­spec­tive coun­tries. Na­tions that have highly so­phis­ti­cated mil­i­taries have al­ways com­manded greater re­spect within the in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics than their coun­ter­parts with weaker mil­i­taries.

Lastly, mil­i­taries are a source of em­ploy­ment. Mil­i­taries serve as a source of em­ploy­ment for many peo­ple of dif­fer­ent ages in all coun­tries. In the wake of in­creas­ing lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly in the Third World coun­tries, many youths are forced to make pro­fes­sions within mil­i­taries.

an in­ter­na­tional over­view There are 26 coun­tries world­wide that do not have armies (are at the stage of non-mil­i­tari­sa­tion). Of these 26 coun­tries, seven ini­tially had armies but de­cided to dis­band them. The rest never had armies from the start or never cre­ated them when they at­tained in­de­pen­dence.

Much as most of these coun­tries are small both in terms of ge­o­graph­i­cal size and pop­u­la­tion, some are far larger than many states that cur­rently main­tain armies. It is im­por­tant to note that though with­out armies, these coun­tries re­main sov­er­eign. All but three of these coun­tries are full mem­bers of the United Na­tions.

These coun­tries are found mainly in Cen­tral Amer­ica and europe. Gen­er­ally, these non-mil­i­tarised coun­tries have higher stan­dards of liv­ing and are more peace­ful than their mil­i­tarised coun­ter­parts. Costa Rica is usu­ally given as the shin­ing ex­am­ple of how coun­tries can ben­e­fit by dis­band­ing their mil­i­taries.

Pleased with the div­i­dends of de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion that Costa Rica had reaped, for­mer pres­i­dent Os­car An­drias Sanchez once boasted that:

“In­ter­na­tional devel­op­ment agen­cies rec­og­nize that Costa Rica today has a stan­dard of liv­ing com­pa­ra­ble to that of in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries. It is uni­ver­sally ac­cepted that the ex­tra­or­di­nary ad­vances of my coun­try in the fields of ed­u­ca­tion, health, hous­ing and social wel­fare are ba­si­cally due to the fact that we do not ded­i­cate our re­sources to the pur­chase of arms. The ab­sence of the army has strength­ened the Costa Rica democ­racy sys­tem, mak­ing it one of the most con­sol­i­dated democ­ra­cies of Latin Amer­ica.

“To us, these are the div­i­dends that would be within the grasp of all third world (sic) coun­tries if they did not ded­i­cate a very im­por­tant part of their re­sources to the pur­chas­ing of arms.”

Cur­rently, Mau­ri­tius re­mains the only African coun­try with­out a mil­i­tary. Apart from its thriv­ing econ­omy, Mau­ri­tius is rated as the most peace­ful coun­try in Africa. These are, to a greater ex­tent, the ben­e­fits of the coun­try’s bold de­ci­sion of never es­tab­lish an army.

There is also a sec­ond set of coun­tries that have un­der­gone de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion. These are the coun­tries that have sub­stan­tially re­duced the sizes of their armies with­out dis­band­ing them com­pletely.

One such coun­try is el Sal­vador that dis­solved var­i­ous com­po­nents of its armed forces and re­duced the num­ber of the mem­bers of the army by al­most a half within two years. In the place of the dis­solved com­po­nents, a Na­tional Civil­ian Po­lice (PNC) was cre­ated. In order to re­strict the role of the re­main­ing mil­i­tary units, the mis­sion of the mil­i­tary was re­de­fined.

The mil­i­tary role re­mained the na­tional de­fence and it could only be in­volved in mat­ters of pub­lic se­cu­rity dur­ing na­tional emer­gen­cies and only un­der the au­tho­riza­tion of the pres­i­dent with prior ap­proval of the leg­is­la­ture.

Mil­i­tary in Le­sotho For the first 13 years of in­de­pen­dence, Le­sotho was one of the few coun­tries with­out armies. An army only came into ex­is­tence in 1979 when the Le­sotho Para-mil­i­tary Force (LPF) came to be forged out of what was the LMP’S riot squad, the Po­lice Mo­bile Unit (PMU), in re­sponse to at­tacks by the South African-backed Le­sotho Lib­er­a­tion Army (LLA). The Le­sotho army un­der­went var­i­ous name changes un­til it was named the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) in the 1990s.

As stated in the Le­sotho De­fence Force Act of 1996, the pri­mary role of the Le­sotho De­fence Force is to pro­tect the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty of Le­sotho and up­hold the Con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho. Its se­condary roles in­clude the “as­sis­tance in the preser­va­tion of life, health and prop­erty; pro­vi­sion and main­te­nance of es­sen­tial ser­vices; up­hold­ing law and order in sup­port of the po­lice as di­rected by Gov­ern­ment; sup­port to State De­part­ments as di­rected by Gov­ern­ment; com­pli­ance with in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions like peace­keep­ing sup­port op­er­a­tions and re­gional mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion”.

how­ever, an his­tor­i­cal over­view of the Le­sotho’s pol­i­tics shows that the coun­try’s army has been more in­volved in the po­lit­i­cal con­flict that has char­ac­terised Le­sotho in the past three decades than per­form­ing any of the above-stated roles. Non-per­for­mance of these roles re­sults from at least two fac­tors namely lack of need, and/or in­ca­pac­ity.

Le­sotho’s ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion ren­ders ir­rel­e­vant the need for a tra­di­tional role of a mil­i­tary. As noted ear­lier, this in­volves the “ter­ri­to­rial de­fence against at­tack or de­ter­ring threats from the forces of other states, in ad­di­tion to pro­ject­ing power abroad in de­fence of ter­ri­tory and the state’s in­ter­ests”. South Africa com­pletely sur­rounds Le­sotho hence the only pos­si­ble threat of ex­ter­nal ag­gres­sion to Le­sotho.

The Le­sotho army can­not, un­der any cir­cum­stances en­gage their South African coun­ter­parts in war due to the lat­ter’s might. It can also not project any power abroad. It is for this rea­son it be­comes nec­es­sary that Le­sotho gets prag­matic and de­mil­i­tarise and get into rel­e­vant de­fence pacts with South Africa.

This would, in ef­fect be just a for­mal­i­sa­tion of the sta­tus al­ready ob­served in­ter­na­tion­ally that South Africa pro­vides se­cu­rity for Le­sotho. For in­stance, the Mil­i­tary Bal­ance — an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion con­cerned with mil­i­tary is­sues — writes on its web­site that “Le­sotho’s small armed forces are charged with pro­tect­ing ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty, though South Africa in ef­fect acts as a se­cu­rity guar­an­tor”. The in­abil­ity of the Le­sotho’s army to pro­vide a ter­ri­to­rial de­fence against for­eign at­tack has been proven in the few in­ci­dents the army was needed to act. The 1982, 1985 at­tacks by the apartheid regime in South Africa, 1988 bus hi­jack by LLA el­e­ments dur­ing the Pa­pal visit, as well as the 2009 ‘mer­ce­nary’ at­tacks of the State house are all ev­i­dence to this fact.

A closer look at the se­condary roles of the LDF re­veals that the army only sig­nif­i­cantly en­gages in the up­hold­ing of law and order in sup­port of the po­lice. Sup­port for other gov­ern­ment de­part­ments has not been ef­fi­cient enough and on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions the coun­try has been forced to seek as­sis­tance from the South African forces dur­ing dis­as­ters.

Le­sotho’s army’s in­volve­ment in in­ter­na­tional peace ini­tia­tives is mainly lim­ited to prac­tice ses­sions and the coun­try’s army has never sent sol­diers for peace-mak­ing mis­sions in coun­tries fac­ing wars. This is in con­trast to its South African coun­ter­parts that have thou­sands of of­fi­cers in peace­keep­ing mis­sions in coun­tries like the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) and the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR) just to men­tion two.

The army’s in­volve­ment in main­tain­ing law and order in Le­sotho does not come with­out prob­lems. De­spite some ob­serv­able suc­cesses in some cases, the bru­tal­ity the pub­lic usu­ally suf­fers from the army has proved beyond doubt that the army has not been trained for this role. This is not sur­pris­ing as Wil­lian Adama once warned that “there’s a rea­son you sep­a­rate mil­i­tary and the po­lice. One fights the en­e­mies of the state, the other serves and pro­tects the peo­ple. When the mil­i­tary be­comes both, then the en­e­mies of the state tend to be­come the peo­ple”. It is there­fore im­por­tant that the coun­try stops mis­plac­ing the army, in­stead ca­pac­i­tate the po­lice enough to ad­e­quately han­dle any sit­u­a­tion con­cern­ing the up­hold­ing of law and order.

Why it’s im­por­tant to de­mil­i­tarise As au­thors Mat­losa and Pule noted way back in 2001, the Le­sotho army has al­ways been marred by con­tro­versy and steeped in in­trigue. Its con­tro­versy has al­ways spanned from its politi­ci­sa­tion and use by in­cum­bent lead­ers as an in­stru­ment not only to ward off ex­ter­nal threat, but also to emas­cu­late in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion.

The de­struc­tive role the Le­sotho army has played in the coun­try’s pol­i­tics is a mat­ter of pub­lic record and does not need to be re­peated here. The cen­tral­ity of the Le­sotho’s army to po­lit­i­cal con­flict, cou­pled with the facts stated in the above para­graph, ne­ces­si­tate in­tro­spec­tion to es­tab­lish if Le­sotho can­not do bet­ter — both po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally — with­out an army.

It is im­por­tant to note that this call for de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of Le­sotho is not en­tirely new as it has been made in dif­fer­ent plat­forms be­fore. In re­cent weeks one col­umn of this pub­li­ca­tion has touched on the sub­ject sev­eral times. A fact-charged de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion, not emo­tional one, can in the long-term prove to be a very good peace in­vest­ment for Le­sotho.

Po­lit­i­cally, the coun­try stands to ben­e­fit as the ab­sence of the army would pave a way for po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ments to po­lit­i­cal con­flicts. Since its es­tab­lish­ment, the army has proved to be a hin­drance to peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of con­flict as po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have from time to time re­sorted to it for res­o­lu­tion of po­lit­i­cal con­flicts. De­mil­i­tari­sa­tion would also al­low for the ad­e­quate ca­pac­i­tat­ing other de­part­ments — such as po­lice and dis­as­ter agen­cies — whose main roles ap­pear as se­condary roles for the army.

De­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of the Le­sotho would en­sure eco­nomic div­i­dends as it would al­low the re­sources cur­rently chan­nelled to the army, to be chan­nelled to other pro­duc­tive sec­tors. It is never an ideal sit­u­a­tion to have an eco­nom­i­cally poor coun­try like Le­sotho chan­nelling huge per­cent­ages of its bud­get to un­pro­duc­tive sec­tors like armies.

Con­tin­ued on page 14...

The Le­sotho army can­not, un­der any cir­cum­stances en­gage their South African coun­ter­parts in war due to the lat­ter’s might. It can also not project any power abroad. It is for this rea­son it be­comes nec­es­sary that Le­sotho gets prag­matic and de­mil­i­tarise and get into rel­e­vant de­fence pacts with South Africa.

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