On Lekhanya’s remarks and the reforms vision
SOME remarks by the former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, military ruler and later beleaguered leader of the Basotho National Party ( BNP) Major-general Justin Metsing Lekhanya on the promised security reforms (“’Dialogue should precede security reforms”’, Lesotho Times 27 July 2017) sound suspiciously dangerous even if apparently innocent.
They, therefore, beg some form of interrogation and rebuttal. He properly proposes that security reforms must be preceded by an all-stakeholder national dialogue. Yet he places undue emphasis on the importance of including the security forces, positing that they have the needed experience of being in government; and complaining “they are forced to remain silent even when they foresee problems”.
This proposition is handicapped at three levels. First, a rogue army staging a coup or even a “revolutionary, patriotic” army staging a revolution might not pretend to put forward its experiment at national administration as a template for democratic governance – no army is meant for that or inducted in that, hence every military regime uses pliant professors and other intelligentsia to rule on behalf of “the people” in a republic and on behalf of “the king” in a monarchy, as happened here.
Second, security reforms are a conjuncture where the community decides patterns of subordination and control of its forces, and accounting for the spinoffs or fallout therefrom, i.e consequences of its choices – not where the forces negotiate the tailoring of the field with the community and its elected (political and civil society) representatives.
Third, though that isn’t its space at all, the LDF doesn’t have any recent history of being forced to remain silent even where it foresaw problems. On the contrary, it spent the years 1994 - 1998 chasing the ruling Congress politicians including killing the deputy prime minister while being apparently shielded by the state. From between 2007 and 2016, it was chasing the All Basotho Convention (ABC) in opposition and in government alike, including forcing its leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his police and army chiefs into exile in the August 29, 2014 coup attempt, and ultimately killing LtGen. Maaparankoe Mahao whom the LDF Congress handlers/ clients equated with the ABC for their project.
Its repeatedly self-promoting, criminally multiply-named commanders told the Phumaphi Commission in 2015 that they had since arrogated to themselves the responsibility to determine the legitimacy of the prime minister and government, and times to obey or defy him.
The major-general claims that the security forces are constrained to accept the current changes of command, and the envisaged reforms programme, because they are formally employed and budgeted for by the incumbent civilian authority.
This is an unfortunate and mercenary posture, if true, and tragic to issue from the throat of one of such status. In any case, the 2012/15 government was still paying them, and so was the 2015/17 one, yet they stood up to their civilian overlords in both cases.
The forces should follow the coattails of the civilian authority because they think and accept it as their professional call of duty, their oath of life and death, to do so. How you arrive at that is a different question, but the clever answers of the LDF commanders at the Phumaphi Commis- sion show that they are quite capable of internalising the same; after all that has been their lifelong training in a number of developed jurisdictions.
I wish to further challenge the majorgeneral’s three-pronged claim that (i) politicians crave security forces’ absolute support and don’t care much for voters’ support; (ii) this renders it self-contradictory and near impossible to depoliticise the forces whose members have become card-carrying party members; and (iii) until the new inclusive electoral model was adopted, a loser of national elections could just go to the barracks and pick up arms to retain power.
Wrong: (a) this naughtily promotes military self-deception, whereas all parties formally subscribe to electivity as the basis for managing national affairs – and this includes the Congress that incites the forces’ insubordination when in opposition, and prosecutes terror when in power; (b) while we have no studies of party affiliation of the forces save to know the political, even anti-government, rumblings of commanders at military parades dictating voting patterns and hatred for other commanders; there is actually nothing wrong with such identities being known as long as the forces relate to the rulers only as instruments of the state and nothing else – in the US, for example, the army traditionally votes Republican Party but has always remained professional; (c) nowhere in the world does a “loser” politician enjoy a thoroughfare to breach national armoury; and in the 1998-2002 transition it wasn’t true for “any loser” politician (even if you take it figuratively), but it took a coincidence of a particular complexion of political opinion with a chosen incline as well as material and strategic interests of the top command. It was a tango of a politician and a soldier.
The answer to why the major-general conveniently shaves the army (command) off this tango, and makes it remain a solo
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