Ex­iled sol­diers re­in­stated

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

THE gov­ern­ment is re-hir­ing most of the sol­diers who fled the coun­try at the height of the tur­moil in the King­dom dur­ing the year 2015 and oth­ers who were de­tained over trumped up charges of plot­ting a mutiny.

Dozens of sol­diers fled into ex­ile while oth­ers were de­tained at the Maseru Max­i­mum Prison dur­ing the reign of ter­ror un­leashed on Le­sotho by for­mer army com­man­der Tlali Kennedy Kamoli in the wake of his re-ap­point­ment to the LDF af­ter for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili won the Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions.

Un­der Lt-gen Kamoli’s re­newed man­date at the helm of the LDF, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, who had been ap­pointed army com­man­der by Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane was bru­tally mur­dered in June 2015. Other sol­diers ac­cused of hav­ing plot­ted a mutiny along­side Lt-gen Ma­hao were ar­rested, bru­tally tor­tured and de­tained. Oth­ers fled into ex­ile.

The mutiny story was dis­missed as a hoax by the Mphaphi Phumaphi com­mis­sion of in­quiry es­tab­lished by SADC to, among other things, probe the killing of Lt-gen Ma­hao.

The gov­ern­ment is now re­hir­ing the sol­diers, who suf­fered im­mensely un­der Lt-gen Kamoli’s reign of ter­ror. Their re-hir­ing, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, is part of a wider ini­tia­tive to re­ha­bil­i­tate the LDF and re­turn it to nor­malcy af­ter the tur­bu­lence that char­ac­terised the army dur­ing Lt-gen Kamoli’s ten­ure.

Lt-gen Kamoli was forcibly re­tired on 1 De­cem­ber 2016 af­ter wide­spread in­ter­na­tional dis­ap­proval of his con­tin­ued com­mand of the LDF and the rec­om­men­da­tions of the SADC com­mis­sion of in­quiry. He is now in prison for atroc­i­ties he com­mit­ted dur­ing his ten­ure.

At least six sol­diers, of the more than 30 who were ei­ther in ex­ile or in army de­ten­tion, will start work on Mon­day while more are ex­pected to re­turn to work in the com­ing weeks.

The six are Ma­jor Mo­jalefa Mosak­eng, Lieu­tenant Colonels Lekhooa Mat­lali and Nkhethe­leng Mo­hale, Ma­jor Gen­eral Poqa Mo­toa and Colonels Kolisang and Stem­mere. Ma­jor Gen­eral Matela Ma­to­bakele, who was hounded into ex­ile by Kamoli, has al­ready been ap­pointed deputy com­man­der of the LDF and will also start work next week.

The Le­sotho Times has it on good au­thor­ity that all the sol­diers who were in ex­ile as well as those who were in de­ten­tion met with the army’s Hu­man Re­source man­ager at Ratjo- mose Bar­racks yes­ter­day at 11am to dis­cuss the modal­i­ties of their re­turn to work. Some don’t want to re­turn to work nev­er­the­less and pre­fer to get com­pen­sated.

Defence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity min­is­ter, Sen­tje Le­bona, last night con­firmed the im­pend­ing re­turn of the six LDF mem­bers, say­ing, “The gov­ern­ment is busy with the modal­i­ties of en­sur­ing that all the sol­diers start their work as soon as pos­si­ble”.

Ma­jor Mosak­eng fled into ex­ile in Fe­bru­ary 2015 af­ter be­ing shot by his col­leagues.

Lt-col Mat­lali and Lt-col Mo­hale fled af­ter be­ing fin­gered in the al­leged mutiny plot of 2015 which was al­legedly aimed at top­pling the com­mand of Lt-gen Kamoli but was dis- missed by the SADC in­quiry as a hoax.

Maj-gen Mo­toa (pre­vi­ously a Bri­gadier) as well as Colonels Kolisang and Stem­mere were de­tained at the Maseru Max­i­mum prison.

Mr Le­bona how­ever, re­fused to shed light on yes­ter­day’s meet­ing at Ratjo­mose Bar­racks, say­ing “se­cu­rity is­sues are sen­si­tive matters that should be han­dled with the ut­ter­most care”.

In ad­di­tion to the six, Mr Le­bona said other sol­diers of lower ranks would also be re­turn­ing to work in the com­ing weeks.

“The seven sol­diers (in­clud­ing Ma­to­bakele) will start work on Mon­day and all the other sol­diers who were ei­ther in ex­ile or in the max­i­mum prison will re­sume their du­ties very soon”.

He how­ever, said only those sol­diers who were will­ing to re­turn to work would be reem­ployed while the gov­ern­ment would com­pen­sate those who did not want to re­turn to work.

“The gov­ern­ment will work on the exit pack­ages for those who do not want to re­turn to work,” Mr Le­bona added.

He said that the gov­ern­ment had com­pleted pay­ing salaries owed to all the for­merly ex­iled sol­diers. Their salaries had been cut by Lt-gen Kamoli in April 2015.

He said the pay­ments were ne­ces­si­tated by the fact that their ex­ile did not take away their em­ploy­ment sta­tus within the LDF.

“The sol­diers who were in ex­ile and those who were de­tained in the max­i­mum prison still bore their em­ploy­ment sta­tus and for that rea­son, the gov­ern­ment made sure to pay the salaries of those who were in ex­ile from 2015 un­til their re­turn in 2017.

“Those who were in de­ten­tion were still earn­ing their salaries de­spite the de­ten­tion,” Mr Le­bona said.

He how­ever, re­fused to dis­close how much the gov­ern­ment had spent on the salary ar­rears, say­ing salaries were not only pri­vate but also a sen­si­tive is­sue.

In an­other de­vel­op­ment, Mr Le­bona re­vealed that a cer­e­mony will held “some­time next week” where the newly ap­pointed army com­man­der, Lt-gen Mo­jalefa Let­soela, will be of­fi­cially in­stalled in his new po­si­tion.

“The Prime Min­is­ter, Dr Thomas Tha­bane, only ar­rived to­day (yes­ter­day) from a gov­ern­ment trip (to Ethiopia) and he is the one who will de­ter­mine the ac­tual date which I be­lieve will be next week”.

Lt-gen Let­soela takes over from Maj-gen Li­neo Poopa who has been Act­ing Com­man­der of the LDF since the 5 Septem­ber, 2017 as­sas­si­na­tion of Lt-gen Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo by his sub­or­di­nates, Bri­gadier Bu­lane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

In the af­ter­math of Lt-gen Motšo­motšo’s as­sas­si­na­tion, the re­gional South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) re­solved to de­ploy a standby force to help the LDF man­age the en­su­ing se­cu­rity cri­sis.

The SADC standby force was de­ployed to Le­sotho on 2 De­cem­ber, 2017. It is made up of 217 sol­diers, 15 in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel, 24 po­lice of­fi­cers and 13 civil­ian ex­perts.

One of its stated ob­jec­tives is to sup­port Le­sotho in re­train­ing its army per­son­nel, es­pe­cially in the area of civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions while work­ing to­wards se­cu­rity sec­tor and other in­sti­tu­tional re­forms.

DEFENCE and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Sen­tje Le­bona.

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