The strug­gle to ‘lib­er­ate’ se­cu­rity forces

Lesotho Times - - Opin­ion -

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.

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