Regional body says miss­ing arms of war could be used in reprisal at­tacks

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

ACONFIDENTIAL re­port by the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) has warned that miss­ing arms of war could be used by rogue sol­diers to launch reprisal at­tacks as ef­forts to hold them ac­count­able for past trans­gres­sions in­ten­sify, rais­ing the specter of height­ened in­sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho.

The regional body has rec­om­mended the com­pi­la­tion of an in­ven­tory of all ex­ist­ing and miss­ing arms from the State ar­mory to ad­dress the miss­ing gaps. The con­fi­den­tial re­port, ob­tained by the

Le­sotho Times this week, was com­piled ahead of the much an­tic­i­pated de­ploy­ment of SADC troops to foster a con­ducive at­mos­phere for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the regional body’s rec­om­men­da­tions to se­cure the coun­try’s long term sta­bil­ity.

The re­port speaks of arms of war and am­mu­ni­tion miss­ing from the ar­mory of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) as well as heavy AK47 ri­fles that had dis­ap­peared from the Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (LCS).

Also miss­ing are the arms con­fis­cated by the LDF from the Le­sotho Mounted Police Ser­vice (LMPS) dur­ing a coup at­tempt on 30 Au­gust 2014 when the army raided and seized arms from police sta­tions around Maseru.

It is sus­pected that all th­ese arms are in the pos­ses­sion of rogue el­e­ments of the LDF who might want to use them to launch reprisal at­tacks, height­en­ing in­sta­bil­ity in the King­dom.

Even though there is a sem­blance of sta­bil­ity since Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane was re­turned to power in the June 3 2017 elec­tions, the re­port nonethe­less warns of the pos­si­bil­ity of “reprisal at­tacks and other acts of in­sta­bil­ity” due to resid­ual ten­sions and deeply rooted di­vi­sions among the govern­ment, op­po­si­tion par­ties and the se­cu­rity sec­tor, es­pe­cially the army which SADC ac­cused of con­tin­u­ing to har­bour “rogue sol­diers”. Al­ready for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili has con­demned the de­ploy­ment of SADC troops say­ing Ba­sotho must re­solve their own prob­lems.

SADC’S ob­ser­va­tions and warn­ings are con­tained in the re­port com­piled ahead of its de­ploy­ment of a regional standby force to Le­sotho. The de­ploy­ment is now ex­pected to be­gin on Satur­day, 23 May 2017, once lo­gis­ti­cal ar­range­ments have been com­pleted. The de­ploy­ment has been post­poned umpteen times.

The 258 strong standby force com­pris­ing of 207 sol­diers, 15 in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel, 24 police of­fi­cers and 12 civil­ian ex­perts is be­ing de­ployed to Le­sotho on a man­date of “cre­at­ing a suf­fi­ciently se­cure, sta­ble and peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive for the rule of law nec­es­sary for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms and the rec­om­men­da­tions of the SADC”.

Their de­ploy­ment was agreed on by SADC lead­ers in the af­ter­math of the 5 Septem­ber 2017 as­sas­si­na­tion of army com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, by his sub­or­di­nates, Bri­gadier Bu­lane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

The re­port ti­tled “Draft in­te­grated mission plan for the de­ploy­ment of the con­tin­gent mission to the King­dom of Le­sotho,” states that one of the main ob­jec­tives of the SADC de­ploy­ment is to “as­sist in iso­lat­ing rene­gade el­e­ments within the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF)”.

The standby force will also sup­port Le­sotho in re­train­ing its army per­son­nel, es­pe­cially in the area of civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions while work­ing to­wards se­cu­rity sec­tor and other in­sti­tu­tional re­forms.

Fur­ther­more, the SADC force will “mon­i­tor the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the as­sas­si­na­tion of LtGen Motšo­motšo, pri­ori­tise and ex­pe­di­tiously as­sist in the op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of na­tional unity and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion di­a­logue with a clear ap­proach, to be fa­cil­i­tated by SADC, whereby the estab­lish­ment of a Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion may be con­sid­ered”.

The re­port says SADC was re­cently briefed by its Le­sotho Over­sight Com­mit­tee Deputy Chair­per­son, Bri­gadier Gen­eral Vuy­isile Radebe, who noted that be­neath the ve­neer of the cur­rent “seem­ingly sta­ble se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion,” in the coun­try, lay se­ri­ous ten­sions which had the po­ten­tial to lead to re­newed in­sta­bil­ity in the coun­try.

Such ten­sions were the prod­uct of var­i­ous fac­tors in­clud­ing mis­trust and deepseated di­vi­sions be­tween the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion par­ties. The LDF which con­tin­ued to har­bour rogue sol­diers was another source of in­sta­bil­ity, the re­port said.

“Cur­rently, the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the King­dom of Le­sotho is rel­a­tively calm,” reads part of the re­port.

“This notwith­stand­ing, the like­li­hood of reprisal at­tacks and other acts of in­sta­bil­ity can­not be ruled out given the resid­ual ten­sions and deep rooted mis­trust amongst politi­cians and di­vi­sions among the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ments specif­i­cally (in) the LDF.”

The sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho, SADC states, is seem­ingly sta­ble only be­cause the rogue sol­diers are “con­scious of the im­pend­ing de­ploy­ment of the SADC con­tin­gency force”.

SADC also be­lieves that the rogue el­e­ments within the LDF could be the ones in pos­ses­sion of all the arms and am­mu­ni­tion miss­ing from the ar­mories of the LDF it­self, the LMPS and the LCS.

“The un­sta­ble se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is partly at­trib­uted to miss­ing arms and am­mu­ni­tion from the LDF ar­moury, miss­ing AK47 firearms from the Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice ar­moury and the arms that were con­fis­cated from the …LMPS by the LDF in 2014,” the re­port states.

SADC also ex­presses con­cern that the con­tin­ued ar­rests of se­nior LDF mem­bers amid the ab­sence of a cred­i­ble wit­ness pro­tec­tion mech­a­nisms all threat­ened the peace in Le­sotho.

Since Dr Tha­bane’s coali­tion took over in June, sev­eral sol­diers in­clud­ing for­mer army com­man­der Kamoli have been ar­rested over var­i­ous crimes dur­ing the lat­ter’s reign.

Lt-gen Kamoli faces charges of mur­der­ing Police Sub-in­spec­tor Mokhe­seng Ramahloko who was killed at the Police Head­quar­ters dur­ing the army’s Au­gust 2014 raids of police sta­tions.

Dr Tha­bane equated the raids to a coup de­tat and fled to South to only re­turn un­der heavy South African police guard. He re­mained un­der SA pro­tec­tion un­til the Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions which re­turned Dr Mo­sisili to power.

Dr Mo­sisili’s coali­tion was then ac­cused of un­leash­ing a reign of ter­ror on its op­po­nents re­sult­ing in the killing of Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, whom Dr Tha­bane had ap­pointed to re­place Lt-gen Kamoli, prompt­ing the lat­ter’s coup at­tempt. Lt-gen Ma­hao’s killing re­sulted in the estab­lish­ment of SADC’S com­mis­sion of in­quiry led by Botswana Judge Mphaphi Phumaphi and a rafter of rec­om­men­da­tions which are yet to be fully im­ple­mented. It is hoped that the de­ploy­ment of the SADC force will has­ten the im­ple­men­ta­tion of all the out­stand­ing rec­om­men­da­tions.

Lt-gen Kamoli faces fur­ther charges of at­tempted mur­der of 14 peo­ple who were present in the houses of for­mer police com­mis­sioner, Khothatso Tšooana, First Lady ‘Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane and one ‘Mamo­let­sane Mo­let­sane when their homes were bombed on 27 Jan­uary 2014 by sus­pected LDF op­er­a­tives.

He re­mains in cus­tody at the Maseru Max­i­mum Prison af­ter his bail ap­pli­ca­tion was turned by the High Court this week.

Also con­tribut­ing to the in­sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho, the re­port states, are claims by the op­po­si­tion that the Tha­bane govern­ment is on a mission to per­se­cute its lead­ers, some of whom have since fled the coun­try.

Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) leader and for­mer Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing, his deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi, and Demo­cratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathi­beli Mokhothu, fled the coun­try in the af­ter­math of the June elec­tions.

Mr Mets­ing, who is also the Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Ma­hobong, fled the coun­try in Au­gust this year, claim­ing that he had re­ceived a tip-off that the police were on their way to his Ha Lo­biane home-town to ar­rest and kill him.

How­ever, Prime Min­is­ter Tha­bane re­jected Mo­sisili’s claims in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times two weeks back. The premier de­scribed Mr Mets­ing as a “fugi­tive from jus­tice” who had run away to avoid be­ing ar­rested and jailed over al­le­ga­tions that he took bribes from a com­pany, Bravo Con­struc­tion, in ex­change of lu­cra­tive road con­struc­tion ten­ders.

The Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) had in­ves­ti­gated Mr Mets­ing’s ac­counts and un­earthed sub­stan­tial cash de­posits which the for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter was said to have failed to ex­plain.

Mr Mokhosi, a for­mer Min­is­ter of De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity, who is fac­ing mur­der charges, fled the coun­try in Septem­ber im­me­di­ately af­ter he was re­leased on bail, al­leg­ing that his life was in dan­ger. Mr Mokhosi also ac­cused police of bru­tally as­sault­ing him, charges the LMPS ve­he­mently de­nied.

Mr Mokhosi was charged, along­side four police of­fi­cers, for fo the mur­der of Police Con­sta­ble, Mokalekale Mok Khetheng, who was last seen in March 2016 at a tra­di­tional feast in Se­both­oane, Leribe, while be­ing ar­rested by his col­leagues. Con­sta­ble Khetheng was killed af­ter he had al­legedly re­jected pres­sure to falsely im­pli­cate Dr Tha­bane in vi­o­lence and arson at­tacks.

Mr Mokhothu fled in Septem­ber al­leg­ing that he had seen his name on an al­leged hitlist. But Dr Tha­bane’s coali­tion has since dis­missed all th­ese claims as self-serv­ing rhetoric from op­po­si­tion lead­ers afraid to stand trial for an as­sort­ment of al­leged crimes.

The SADC re­port said that op­po­si­tion par­ties, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and some civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions re­mained ap­pre­hen­sive that the SADC con­tin­gent force could be used by the govern­ment to per­se­cute its op­po­nents.

“In view of the neg­a­tive per­cep­tions by the op­po­si­tion re­gard­ing the de­ploy­ment of the SADC Force, it is rec­om­mended that a clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pub­lic re­la­tions strat­egy be de­signed and im­ple­mented prior to and dur­ing the de­ploy­ment.

“El­e­ments of the strat­egy may in­clude con­duct­ing an ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign on the over­all ob­jec­tives of SADC, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to pol­i­tics, de­fence and se­cu­rity co-op­er­a­tion amongst mem­ber states and cit­i­zens,” reads the re­port.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port in­clude the restora­tion of trust within the LDF ranks and be­tween the LDF com­mand and mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence. SADC had al­ready sug­gested that slain army com­man­der, Lt-gen Motšo­motšo, had no sup­port from the Colonel Tumo Lekhooa-led Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence clus­ter, which should have an­tic­i­pated the as­sas­si­na­tion plot and tries to fore­stall it.

The re­port rec­om­mends that “the sta­tus of the arms, weapons and am­mu­ni­tions in­ven­tory …be im­me­di­ately es­tab­lished and any gaps … be ad­dressed”.

Prime min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane

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