The strug­gle to ‘lib­er­ate’ se­cu­rity forces

Lesotho Times - - Leader - nthak­eng Pheello selinyane

WHEN the sit­u­a­tion is as bad as it is these days in the coun­try, it is best to start with a sum­mary and con­clu­sions. Ex­perts on civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions tell us that the role of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives is to make pol­icy, and the role of the mil­i­tary is to im­ple­ment it — civil­ians de­cide the ends of pol­icy, and the mil­i­tary its means.

They also say once that pol­icy, or any de­ci­sion based thereon, has been pro­nounced, the mil­i­tary man has only three dis­tinct choices — obe­di­ence, res­ig­na­tion, or rev­o­lu­tion. Note that the last op­tion is not re­volt but rev­o­lu­tion that to re­volt is to stage an up­ris­ing, to mutiny, which is a mil­i­tary crime, while rev­o­lu­tion is felling a government and usu­ally re­plac­ing it with one­self.

Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli could have been quite aware of the same when he moved to top­ple for­mer premier Thomas Tha­bane when he dis­missed him as com­man­der of the Le­sotho De­fence Force in Au­gust 2014. Dr Tha­bane kept Lt-gen Kamoli in post for far too long fol­low­ing his me­dia conference re­marks in June of that year that the prime min­is­ter (who was his de facto com­man­der-in-chief since his ad­vice to His Majesty the King who car­ries that ti­tle as head of state is peremp­tory) was be­ing badly ad­vised, and that he (Lt-gen Kamoli) would leave post only at the time known to him and on his own terms — on a sup­posed re­tire­ment date that he pen­ciled by him.

That was in ref­er­ence to Dr Tha­bane’s mys­te­ri­ous can­cel­la­tion of his dis­so­lu­tion of Kamoli’s court-mar­tial against the late for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao (who was then bri­gadier and head of lo­gis­tics in the army). Lt-gen Ma­hao was charged for rep­ri­mand­ing a Cap­tain Tefo Hashatsi for work­ing up the Spe­cial Forces to swear to die re­sist­ing a sup­pos­edly im­pend­ing re­moval of Lt-gen Kamoli.

In con­trast to Lt-gen Kamoli, when Gen­eral Christopher Mc­crys­tal who was com­mand­ing US forces in Afghanistan told Rolling Stone mag­a­zine that President Barack Obama looked un­easy and fid­gety in the meet­ings with chiefs of staff, the me­dia made a lot of the fact that he was in­stantly re­called, and an­tic­i­pated his dis­missal. It came to pass as such.

Only Dr Tha­bane could co-ex­ist with Lt-gen Kamoli, thereby un­der­min­ing the prin­ci­ple of civil­ian supremacy over the mil­i­tary, which is cen­tral to mod­ern democ­ra­cies, as he did. Per­haps he was per­son­ally fright­ened of Lt-gen Kamoli, as some of the ev­i­dence of that fate­ful night at the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion ap­pears to show, but it was for Kamoli as a sup­pos­edly pro­fes­sional sol­dier to re­frain from dis­play of fear­some­ness to his boss.

The au­thor­i­ta­tive S.E. Finer in his The Man on Horse­back sug­gests that given the ob­vi­ous power of the armed forces, what should be a won­der is why they obey their civil­ian su­pe­ri­ors, not why they don’t; and pro­poses that they do so more out of re­spect for their civil­ian masters as a moral obli­ga­tion than for pro­fes­sional rea­sons.

Where Finer, how­ever, pro­poses that the army like any other part of the civil ser­vice has a right and duty to woo the government to con­vert to its point of view, and that “it is in no bet­ter, but cer­tainly no worse a moral po­si­tion than any other de­part­ment of the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion” in so seek­ing to so; Ken­neth Kent and Charles Hudlin in their sem­i­nal study of the na­ture and lim­its of civil supremacy over the mil­i­tary, counter that the ease with which the mil­i­tary de­vel­ops a cor­po­rate iden­tity as op­posed to other branches of the public ser­vice, its mo­nop­oly of ex­treme force, and there­fore po­ten­tial to use it to co­erce or black­mail civil author­ity, ad­vises against ad­mit­ting it into the sphere of some form of pol­icy dia­logue.

They ad­vo­cate that in the end, pol­icy in­flu­ence should be far­thest from the mind of a sol­dier at any point in time, thus but­tress­ing Finer’s own point that soldiers sub­mit to their civil­ian over­lords as a mat­ter of their moral obli­ga­tion. They note fur­ther that, while an of­fi­cer may come to en­joy an in­flu­ence on pol­icy by way of weight af­forded his opin­ion, if such in­flu­ence arises be­cause of ser­vices sought, that would be im­proper; they must care­fully shun such an op­por­tu­nity of hav­ing their way. It would seem like Lt-gen Kamoli and his col­leagues failed this test if we take de­vel­op­ments of the past three years.

They im­posed on the rulers to opt for an un­writ­ten, carte blanche pol­icy of “the end jus­ti­fies the means” in hound­ing op­po­nents, sim­ply be­cause their in­stru­ments of war were “needed” to quash un­prece­dented surge of op­po­si­tion be­tween 2007 and 2015. Choice of a com­man­der is cer­tainly also choice of direc­tion of de­fence and other pol­icy of the state, in­clud­ing a new con­tent of civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions; and ob­struc­tion or re­sis­tance of the same (ap­point­ment) can­not be any­thing less than con­test­ing the pol­icy pre­rog­a­tive of the state prin­ci­pals.

In reversing the dis­so­lu­tion of that Ma­hao tri­bunal, Dr Tha­bane was pan­der­ing to a propen­sity of ne­go­ti­at­ing with the forces, which is frowned upon by time-tested prin­ci­ples of civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions. For ex­am­ple, Kent and Hudlin sharply crit­i­cise a “fool­ish, im­proper, and dan­ger­ous in­quiry” by the government to the Bri­tish troops posted in North­ern Ire­land as to whether they would sup­port some limited form of self-government that Lon­don was in­tend­ing to grant the ter­ri­tory, since the main op­po­si­tion party in West­min­ster was spread­ing ru­mour that the troops wouldn’t put down its re­sis­tance by Ul­ster Union­ists loyal to Lon­don. One bri­gade com­man­der pro­ceeded to say he wouldn’t, and was re­called to Lon­don for cen­sure; but ended up go­ing back to post only af­ter a writ­ten un­der­tak­ing by the government that his forces wouldn’t be ex­pected to quash such re­sis­tance if it ma­te­ri­al­ized. The prime min­is­ter’s shame-face with­drawal of that un­der­tak­ing did lit­tle to re­pair the dam­age done.

In par­al­lel with the Lt-gen Kamoli case, the op­po­si­tion, with sec­tions of the War Of­fice, was of course sur­rep­ti­tiously spon­sor­ing this in­sub­or­di­na­tion, and promis­ing re­in­state­ment of any troops that would be dis­missed if and when they came to power. Here we had, like in the case of Lt-gen Kamoli, a case which Sa­muel Hunt­ing­ton in his The Sol­dier and the

Con­tin­ues on Page 22 . . .

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