The struggle to ‘liberate’ security forces
State calls “subjective civilian control” of the military, where it answers to only a section of civilian authority, as opposed to “objective control” where they answer to the entirety of civilian authority.
Just like in the Kamoli case, which is now made the pride of the Lesotho statecraft by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, universal values of civil-military relations frown very heavily on such “bargains” for the aforementioned reasons.
A situation such as that where civilian authority co-existed with a commander who defied his dismissal, leading to the so-called Maseru Security Accord, is unheard-of anywhere in history. It was either Dr Thabane enlisted foreign assistance to expel Lt-gen Kamoli or the LDF commander positively felled him, not something in-between.
Having succumbed to Lt-gen Kamoli by cancelling the dissolution of the Mahao tribunal, Dr Thabane was thereafter too jelly-kneed to compel Lt-gen Kamoli to give him its verdict so that he could dispense with it as he wished as the “Confirming Authority”, until too late.
Care must be taken that any discussion of civil-military relations can only arise, and is only possible, under conditions of democracy; and in that “equation” the “civil” side of this term refers to “popularly elected representatives of the people” as the White Paper for the Lesotho Defence Force Bill of 1996 says.
Therefore, the pipedream of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, the then Democratic Congress Secretary-general Tlohang Sekhamane, and the then main opposition leader and current premier Dr Mosisili who composed the notorious adage that in discharging his mandate as he did, the Dr Thabane was “creeping after the commander of the forces” was inappropriate and dangerous in the parlance of Kemp and Hudlin.
In respect of the change of command in August 2014 and in May 2015, we now know from Lt-col. Bulane Sechele’s evidence at the Phumaphi Commission that the army “laughed at” the former’s promulgation because the officers corps had “determined” that the prime minister had lost political legitimacy, Lt-gen Kamoli should have been given to name his successor, and Mahao was not due for consideration as he was under suspension for indiscipline; while Mahao was given a hearing be- fore his discharge whereas Kamoli wasn’t and his court-martial on Mahao was unlawfully dissolved by the prime minister; and in the case of his return none of the new coalition government parties voiced any objection.
Sechele might have been genuine in his arguments, but it was not his territory to interrogate the propriety or legality of the commander-in-chief’s decisions.
Kemp and Hudlin advise that the commander-in-chief principle dictates that whenever in doubt about the legality of an action a soldier must follow instructions of his president, and not those of courts or legislature.
He should be predisposed to follow the word of his civilian superior when in doubt about the legality of a decision.
This at least preserves the formal decision-making procedure of following the line of command rather than dangerously dabbling in interrogating the legality and constitutionality of the civil authority’s decisions at every turn.
There should be greater presumption in favour of the legality of the decisions of a general’s civilian superiors. But here Sechele was following political sounds on Kingsway Road, not even statutory bodies’ decisions!
In any case, in anticipation of the likes of Sechele and Sekhamane, the authors duly advise that, “an oath to defend the constitution is an oath to be loyal to the president (read prime minister / king) as commander-in-chief of the armed forces”.
The commander of the LDF and his lieutenants would seem to have failed the test in this regard. Sechele might have been aware of the commander-in-chief principle, for to validate his conclusions, he also said he didn’t know who the commander-in-chief of the LDF was, and that if Lesotho were to go to war, however, it would be for the commander to make that decision.
So the king and prime minister would wake up to see the LDF fighting in Sudan on television, without their knowledge!
If the centerpiece of Sechele’s testimony was that the prime minister interfered with the sacrosanct military prerogative with the aim of achieving an obtrusive political goal, it found its grounding in the edicts propounded in the testimony of the commander of the Special Forces Lt.-col. Tefo Hashatsi, where he said his loyalty was to the commander, who was incapable of doing a wrong or issuing unlawful orders, and loyalty to him was loyalty to the state.
That’s a cop-up answer, in an act where he was refusing to answer whether he was loyal to state or individual, while also saying he had invited his forces to swear to die for commander because he was opposed to a syndicate of soldiers who were lobbying politicians to change command, while not contesting the prerogative of politicians to do so.
Hashatsi might have been right in his thinking, but acting it out was against civil supremacy over the forces; what the source of or influence behind civil authority’s decisions is, remains its business and not that of the soldier.
From the days of its crimes in the Maseru June 2007 night curfew, through its staging a failed coup when the command changed in 2014 and attack on the prime minister’s bodyguards in February 2015, right down to the abduction and torture and imprisonment of supposed military detractors and enemies of Lt-gen Kamoli and killing of Mahao in cold blood according to the Phumaphi Commission, the army has been on record claiming that these were the preserve of the military and not for civilian “interference”.
This was complemented by Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, and the so-callled the “owners of government” in the persons of the main ruling parties’ spokesmen and leading activists. What was queer, though, was that Mr Mokhosi would also make it his duty to publicly defend army crimes.
Mr Mokhosi, together with Mr Sekhamane, publicly condoned LtGen Kamoli’s rebellion of August 2014 while the latter called him the last thread by which Lesotho’s democracy was hanging; and on being named minister Mr Mokhosi publicly swore to expel Mahao and return Lt-gen Kamoli Kamoli.
When Mahao was killed, Mr Mokhosi said he couldn’t account for the tragedy because he was “a mere politician”. Mr Mokhosi would, however, return to tell the media that “we called some of the mutiny suspects, and asked their parents to talk to them, then released them because they were young and misled by older ones”. So the minister could be hands-on and be detached simultaneously!
Yet the composers of this strange discourse would be jolted into a rude awakening to know that Nicole Ball and Kayode Fayemi, editors of the 2001 A Handbook of Security-sec- tor Governance in Africa which is a product of two continental workshops on the subject where Lesotho was represented, say “civil society’s role in increasing the accountability of the security sector” as agreed by the leaders entails (1) demanding change, (2) acting as watchdog, and (3) providing technical input. Surely when the leaders prescribed these roles, for increasing accountability of the security sector, they did not mean civilians in their organized formations (not as party spokesmen!) had no role in the career of the sector, nor that the military answered to nobody but itself.
The leaders also adopted the meaning of “security sector oversight” as involving “Independent scrutiny of the governance and operational issues relating to the security sector by the elected authorities, independent institutions of accountability, and civil society”.
The inclusion of organized civilians in shepherding the security sector is born out of the leaders’ conviction that, in Africa’s “second independence” or second-generation democracies, what is needed is not merely reform but transformation of the security sector.
Reform may “change the outward appearance of organizations without fundamentally changing their character”, culture, or de facto balance of power within them.
It usually implements government preferences without consultation with the legislative arm and non-state actors; while transformation involves “a profound intent of the government to ensure that the practices of the forces are consistent with the democracy they serve”.
Once you mention service to democracy in respect of the forces, you imply accountability, and the latter can only go with involvement of the citizenry to whom elected elites have to account.
So that once a supposedly professional soldier arrogates it to himself to patrol civil society out of this sphere, he stops being a professional soldier and degenerates into being a rogue soldier or bandit.
The army has no primary role of protecting and shepherding civilians, outside what is prescribed by civil authority; and indeed the LDF Act itself says commander shall answer to minister of defence for daily operations of the army precisely in consciousness to the same.
Whenever the army ventures into shepherding civilians it ends up committing criminal brutalities, because every army is trained for killing; as happened on 30 August 2014 and 1 February 2015 when the LDF pretended to protect opposition members from the police and government supporters, and the SADC Observer Mission in Lesotho (SOMILES) from the main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) supporters.
Recently Sechele has been boasting on radio that he would gladly repeat the same if similar circumstances arose today, and that nobody would cause him to explain himself, and that is a sacred territory of the military where incursion of anybody else is strictly prohibited. But that is false.
The explanatory memorandum to the LDF Act of 1996 as briefly quoted above says he is wrong; universal practice as evidenced by literature with a plethora of case studies says he is wrong, and the African leaders’ own undertaking, where Lesotho was represented, say he is wrong, or even outright lying.
If that were to be so, Lt-gen Kamoli wouldn’t be making his reluctant exit. If we want to stay on the same page, Sechele should perhaps be brave and come forward and tell the story of the killing of Mahao and the cases for which he has been named in police media briefings up to October 2015, and in the Phumaphi Commission.
Instead he hides behind what he calls “operational secrecy”, which is exactly what the LDF Act says should be accounted for to the minister, who in turn should fully account to “popularly elected people’s representatives”.
In respect of his invocation of the right to avoid self-incrimination, the Phumaphi Commission chairman put it to him that it could only be invoked by one who was physically part of the acts.
It is worth remembering that it is because of the civil authority’s insistence that the likes of Phumaphi findings are not “prosecutable” as said the then police minister Monyane Moleleki in July last year, and minister Mokhosi’s claim to be “a mere politician” when he has to account to public through parliament, as well as his pretence at drafting a general amnesty bill, that Sechele and his teams are still at large — not because they occupy a holy sphere which the natural order of things render beyond the earthly reach of national government and its justice instruments.