De­politi­cis­ing the se­cu­rity forces

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

FORMER Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane once told a Maseru news­pa­per, “Po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity re­quires the army to re­lease its grip on pol­i­tics and take a back seat. The army’s in­ter­fer­ence in the run­ning of the coun­try is at the root of the Le­sotho se­cu­rity cri­sis.”

The de­politi­ciz­ing process en­vis­aged by the se­cu­rity chiefs of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) and Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) is doomed to fail. We need a pro­fes­sional po­lice ser­vice and an army which is not con­trolled and di­vided by politi­cians.

We thought a fresh po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion would calm the si­t­u­a­tion and would de­politi­cize these in­sti­tu­tions; in fact, the change of gov­ern­ment has only served to ex­ac­er­bate ex­ist­ing ten­sions. There­fore, the ef­forts to de­politi­cise these in­sti­tu­tions won’t shoot the hare.

The job of the se­cu­rity forces does not ex­clude any­one from abid­ing by the law, in the­ory. In re­al­ity po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence over the armed forces has not al­lowed for the re­al­iza­tion of this the­ory.

Politi­cians’ med­dling with the se­cu­rity forces is not some­thing to ig­nore, as it has been the ele­phant in the Le­sotho po­lit­i­cal room since the 1970s. The nerve-rack­ing reper­cus­sions for the econ­omy, se­cu­rity and in­tegrity of the coun­try armed forces are ob­vi­ous.

The divi­sion and ten­sion among the armed forces which per­sist even to­day, is the byprod­uct of politi­cised con­trol over na­tional se­cu­rity and the root cause of the coun­try’s se­cu­rity cri­sis which sur­faced dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion in May 1998.

Le­sotho has a long his­tory of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity that dates back to Jan­uary 1986 when troops of the Le­sotho para­mil­i­tary force, led by Ma­jor-gen­eral Justin Lekhanya de­posed the then Prime Min­is­ter Le­abua Jonathan’s gov­ern­ment.

The Au­gust 2014 at­tempted coup again re­sulted in killings, loot­ing and de­struc­tion of prop­erty, and in­volved a com­plex web of high level politi­cians and se­cu­rity chiefs.

Although the Le­sotho se­cu­rity clus­ter’s in­fight­ing is the real threat to sta­bil­ity, re­gret­tably po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence con­tin­ues be­cause troops are re­cruited un­der a po­lit­i­cal leader’s

The politi­cised troops are seen ac­tively at­tend­ing se­cret meet­ings af­fec­tion­ately known as “linakeli”. There is no hope, how­ever, that se­cu­rity chiefs would sep­a­rate wheat from chaff as the pro­mo­tion on merit pol­icy is not ef­fec­tive any­more, and mean­while some of­fi­cers are be­ing pro­moted on the ba­sis of their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion and not on per­for­mance. Noth­ing is done about some per­son­nel who are seen ac­tively wear­ing po­lit­i­cal party at­tires and go around boast­ing about be­ing loyal mem­bers of the rul­ing party. Those sus­pected of links to the prior rul­ing party, the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), are vic­tim­ized by their se­niors and even trans­ferred from ur­ban to re­mote ar­eas.

“Lately for you to be el­i­gi­ble for pro­mo­tion within the po­lice ser­vice, you must be seen ac­tive in po­lit­i­cal ral­lies or at­tend se­cret po­lit­i­cal meet­ings, linakeli,” said one of the con­cerned po­lice of­fi­cers who wanted to re­main anony­mous.

This re­duces the morale of ded­i­cated com­pa­triot po­lice of­fi­cers; they are now drown­ing in a sea of bit­ter­ness and anger. This tar­nishes and threat­ens the in­tegrity and ef­fec­tive­ness of ser­vice de­liv­ery for these two or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Prom­i­nent lawyer Tu­misang Mosotho tweeted on 6 May: “The gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho in­sists that the army is apo­lit­i­cal and pro­fes­sional yet it is em­bark­ing on se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms. Why fix it if it’s not bro­ken?”

Only fee­ble-minded peo­ple will be­lieve the story of de­politi­ciz­ing the se­cu­rity sec­tor since both these in­sti­tu­tions are be­ing run and con­trolled by ex­trem­ists whose mis­sion is to mis­di­rect the en­tire na­tion.

The se­cu­rity sec­tor should be po­lit­i­cally-ed­u­cated and not po­lit­i­cally-ac­tive.

The ques­tion that still re­mains is how can you de­politi­cize the same peo­ple you pro­mote through their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions? To sim­ply an­swer this, there is no way pol­i­tics can be re­moved in the se­cu­rity forces and we should not seek to.

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