NEW ARMY CHIEF SPEAKS

De­plores the LDF’S past role in caus­ing in­sta­bil­ity Vows to sub­mit army to civil­ian au­thor­ity

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

“We need se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions that plan, bud­get and strate­gise to­gether for the pur­pose of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity

NEWLY-AP­POINTED army com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mo­jalefa Ex­av­ery Let­soela, has out­lined his vi­sion to re­form the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) and sub­mit it to civil­ian au­thor­ity.

The LDF, un­der its for­mer com­man­der Tlali Kennedy Kamoli, had gone rogue and plunged Le­sotho into tur­moil. But Lt-gen said all that will now change and the LDF will now trans­form into a pro­fes­sional force that safe­guards the in­ter­ests of the na­tion. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Le­sotho

Times, his first since his ap­point­ment, at his Ratjo­mose Bar­racks of­fices this week, the new army com­man­der strongly de­plored the events of the past four years in which high rank­ing mem­bers of the LDF fo­mented in­sta­bil­ity through at­tacks on the po­lice, as­sas­si­na­tions as well as mur­ders of civil­ians.

He said it was time the LDF turned a new leaf and sub­mit­ted it­self to civil­ian au­thor­ity in line with the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion and norms of all demo­cratic so­ci­eties.

He con­demned as an “il­le­gal op­er­a­tion’’ the Au­gust 30, 2014 at­tempted coup on the first gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane which saw the LDF raid­ing and seiz­ing arms from sev­eral po­lice sta­tions.

Lt-gen Let­soela was on 23 Jan­uary, 2018 ap­pointed army com­man­der as the gov­ern­ment in­ten­si­fied ef­forts to trans­form the se­cu­rity clus­ter in line with rec­om­men­da­tions of an in­quiry by the South­ern Africa De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC).

Lt-gen Kamoli was ar­rested last year and re­mains in cus­tody over var­i­ous mur­der and at­tempted mur­der charges.

His time at the helm of the LDF ef­fec­tively saw the army con­vert­ing into a rogue mili­tia af­ter at­tempt­ing a coup on the first gov­ern­ment of Dr Tha­bane in Au­gust 2014.

Un­der Kamoli, the LDF also gained in­ter­na­tional no­to­ri­ety over as­sas­si­na­tions and at­tempted as­sas­si­na­tions of key po­lit­i­cal, mil­i­tary and civil­ian fig­ures in­clud­ing the ghastly killing of for­mer com­man­der, Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, in June 2015. Dr Tha­bane along­side two other op­po­si­tion lead­ers in his cur­rent coali­tion, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party Leader Th­e­sele Maserib­ane and the Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL)’S Keketso Ran­tšo fled into ex­ile leav­ing the coun­try with no op­po­si­tion lead­ers at that time as all the other par­ties in par­lia­ment were in Dr Mo­sisili’s coali­tion.

Lt-gen Kamoli and sev­eral for­mer LDF of­fi­cers are now in de­ten­tion over var­i­ous atroc­i­ties in­clud­ing the at­tempted mur­der of the ed­i­tor of this news­pa­per, Lloyd Mu­tungamiri, the bomb­ings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane and the Ha Abia res­i­dence of for­mer Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, Khothatso Tšooana.

None of the sol­diers in­volved in the atroc­i­ties had been pros­e­cuted un­der the Pakalitha Mo­sisili-led seven party coali­tion regime which seem­ingly gave the green­light for LtGen Kamoli and his acolytes to per­sist on their mur­der­ous streak un­til it lost the June 3 snap elec­tions to Dr Tha­bane. Lt-gen Kamoli had been forcibly re­tired from the LDF in De­cem­ber 2016 as in­ter­na­tional ou­trage grew over his atroc­i­ties and Amer­ica had threat­ened to ex­pel Le­sotho out of the AGOA trade pact un­less a SADC rec­om­men­da­tion to re­move him from the LDF was im­ple­mented. Af­ter his re­moval, Lt-gen Kamoli was al­legedly given a back-hand role in the se­cu­rity clus­ter and con­tin­ued to re­ceive priv­i­leges in­clud­ing state body­guards un­til Dr Tha­bane came to power and ended it all.

In the in­ter­view with this news­pa­per this week, Lt Gen Let­soela ac­knowl­edged that the LDF had gone off the rails dur­ing the pe­riod from 2014. It now needed to “speed­ily re­turn to the right track”.

He said his vi­sion was to re-align and re­form the LDF so that it be­comes an in­sti­tu­tion that clearly un­der­stands democ­racy, civil and mil­i­tary re­la­tions in which the army “re­spect­fully and will­ingly sub­mit­ted to civil­ian au­thor­ity with­out re­bel­lion”.

“We were at a sit­u­a­tion where one could say we were off track and we should now speed­ily come back to the right track,” Lt Gen Let­soela said.

“We are fac­ing chal­lenges in our quest to see the es­tab­lish­ment of a sta­ble sys­tem of good gov­er­nance based on the rule of law ac­cord­ing to the pre­cepts of Le­sotho’s con­sti­tu­tion.

“It is my vi­sion to see the LDF re­spect­fully sub­mit­ting to civil au­thor­ity with­out re­bel­lion. We have to un­der­stand that there is civil­ian au­thor­ity over any army and that will help us ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of rule of law, proper gov­er­nance and de­vel­op­ment.”

He said the con­flict with the po­lice which re­sulted in the Au­gust 2014 raids on po­lice sta­tions and the seizure of their weapons should be re­placed by a new era of co­op­er­a­tion among the se­cu­rity forces.

“As the newly-ap­pointed mil­i­tary com­mand, we should im­prove ef­fi­ciency in the LDF man­age­ment of re­sources and en­hance col­lab­o­ra­tion within the se­cu­rity clus­ter in the coun­try. For ex­am­ple, we no longer want to see the po­lice, sol­diers, cor­rec­tional ser­vice of­fi­cers and na­tional in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers fight­ing each other.

“We need se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions that plan, bud­get and strate­gise to­gether for the pur­pose of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity.”

He re­vealed that weapons seized from the po­lice dur­ing the 30 Au­gust, 2014 raids would soon be of­fi­cially handed back to the po­lice.

He also said the al­lo­ca­tion of arms and am­mu­ni­tion to dif­fer­ent army units would be closely mon­i­tored through a track­ing sys­tem for the pur­poses of con­trol, au­dit and ac­count­abil­ity.

In its re­cent re­port ahead of the 2 De­cem­ber 2017 de­ploy­ment of its standby force to Le­sotho, SADC had warned that there were miss­ing arms of war that could be used by rogue sol­diers to launch reprisal at­tacks to thwart ef­forts to hold them ac­count­able for past trans­gres­sions.

SADC said there were arms of war and am­mu­ni­tion miss­ing from the ar­moury of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) as well as heavy AK47 ri­fles that had dis­ap­peared from the Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (LCS). Also miss­ing were the arms con­fis­cated by the LDF from the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) dur­ing the Au­gust 2014 coup at­tempt.

How­ever, Lt-gen Let­soela said in the af­ter­math of the 5 Septem­ber, 2017 as­sas­si­na­tion of army com­man­der, Lt-gen Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, the LDF had con­ducted an in­de­pen­dent au­dit and “90 per­cent of the arms and am­mu­ni­tion were ac­counted for al­though there were some dis­crep­an­cies”.

He said the re­main­ing weapons were ei­ther in the cus­tody of po­lice as ex­hibits in crim­i­nal cases while oth­ers could not be ac­counted for due to poor record keep­ing.

“The au­dit is on­go­ing be­cause of fail­ure to trace some of the arms but work­ing to­gether with po­lice, we hope to find them”.

Lt Gen Let­soela em­pha­sized the need for the LDF to be fully ac­count­able and re­spect­ful in its be­hav­iour to­wards civil­ians.

He said sol­diers could not just wake up one day and claim to have con­ducted an op­er­a­tion in which they mas­sacre civil­ians who looked up to them for pro­tec­tion.

“We (sol­diers) can’t just wake up, stran­gle peo­ple and throw them in dams and not ac­count for our deeds,” he said in ref­er­ence to the May 2017 in­ci­dent wherein three men were killed by LDF of- fi­cers and their bod­ies were thrown into the Mo­hale Dam. The bod­ies had since re­trieved and the sol­diers re­spon­si­ble ar­rested. “As a state se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tion, we have to fully ac­count for our ac­tions, op­er­a­tions and pro­grammes,” he said, adding, “The na­tional as­sem­bly through their port­fo­lio com­mit­tees should be ac­tive and pres­sure us to ad­here to demo­cratic principles”. “The sol­diers should have trans­par­ent fi­nan­cial re­ports and never hide be­hind claims that se­cu­rity is­sues are sen­si­tive. They must re­port and ac­count for money spent. “The civil so­ci­ety must be in­formed about ac­tiv­i­ties of the army that at­tract pub­lic in­ter­est to avoid neg­a­tive per­cep­tions. When every­thing is in the right di­rec­tion then ev­ery ac­tiv­ity that is in the pub­lic in­ter­est should be open for the pub­lic to know.” He said the army should never be in­volved in shady deal­ings which then forces it to hide and be­come de­fen­sive. It should al­ways act in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

BORN on 3 Au­gust, 1967 in Bela–bela in the Berea district, army com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mo­jalefa Let­soela, never imag­ined him­self be­ing a sol­dier- let alone be­ing in charge of the en­tire mil­i­tary in­sti­tu­tion.

The fifth child in a fam­ily of seven sib­lings at­tended or­di­nary schools like any other or­di­nary child, be­gin­ning with Pelele Pri­mary School be­fore pro­ceed­ing to Holy Names High school where he com­pleted his Cam­bridge Over­seas School Cer­tifi­cate (COSC) in 1985.

He said his dream had been to be­come a com­mer­cial pi­lot but pol­i­tics changed his ca­reer path even though he never took an ac­tive part in them.

“Af­ter com­plet­ing my COSC, I al­ways wanted to be­come a qual­i­fied com­mer­cial pi­lot but was de­nied a schol­ar­ship to go to univer­sity be­cause of my par­ents’ congress pol­i­tics. As a re­sult, I was forced to stay at home for the whole of 1996,” he said.

“My par­ents left me in Le­sotho to com­plete my high school while they went into ex­ile in South Africa. I then found my­self with no op­tion but to ap­ply for mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment be­cause all my friends and peers were at the univer­sity”.

De­spite the ca­reer change, Lt Gen Let­soela soon ex­celled in the mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment course and achieved the best per­for­mance in Law and Ev­i­dence.

He was given the rank of Pri­vate and worked in the LDF Mil­i­tary Band Unit from 1988 to 1991 un­til he was ad­vised by his im­me­di­ate su­per­vi­sors to pur­sue fur­ther stud­ies at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho.

Prepa­ra­tions were made by the LDF for him to en­roll with NUL in 1992 but things took another turn when LDF Air Wing re­ported a short­age of pi­lots.

“I was so re­luc­tant to ap­ply for mil­i­tary pi­lots’ re­cruit­ment but my bosses put me un­der a lot of pres­sure.

“With a heavy heart I took their ad­vice and went to South Africa Air­force Fly­ing School in 1992, the very year I had been look­ing for­ward to go­ing to the NUL.”

Lt Gen Let­soela re­mem­bers clearly that the in-depth of the course was frus­trat­ing and hec­tic be­cause it was at a time when apartheid was in­tense.

Racial dis­crim­i­na­tion topped the strug­gles of the course. Every­thing was taught in Afrikaans and he was forced to do pri­vate lessons to learn the lan­guage in his spare time.

“Against all odds, I passed with fly­ing colours and only two Le­sotho sol­diers failed the course. I was the only one who was given an op­por­tu­nity to go solo on the Har­vard Fighter Air­craft as an in­di­ca­tion that I was the best per­former. This is a great achieve­ment that I can­not for­get”.

Af­ter com­plet­ing mil­i­tary air force course at the end of 1992, he was con­firmed as a mil­i­tary cadet.

“I was still a Pri­vate be­cause a cadet is not a rank but a po­si­tion be­tween the ranks of War­rant Of­fi­cer II and War­rant Of­fi­cer I.”

Fol­low­ing mil­i­tary air force pro­ce­dure, Lt Gen Let­soela had to go back to South Africa for a three month Com­bat and Spe­cial Mis­sions Oper­a­tional Course in March 1993.

“By the end of 1993 I com­pleted what is called multi-en­gine fly­ing course,” he said.

In April 1994 he was ap­pointed 2nd Lieu­tenant and by that time he was a vi­brant and young pi­lot en­joy­ing what he al­ways dreamt of- fly­ing.

Two years later he was moved up to the rank of Lieu­tenant and was com­mis­sioned as LDF Air Wing base Avi­a­tion Safety Of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble of con­trol­ling risks at the mil­i­tary avi­a­tion base.

In 1999 he was ap­pointed Cap­tain and was fully oper­a­tional, avail­able around the clock.

“I en­rolled with Sin­ga­pore Avi­a­tion Academy part-time, from 2001 to 2005 and com­pleted a De­gree in Avi­a­tion Safety.

“Nine years later was ap­pointed Ma­jor and the fol­low­ing year I en­rolled at the Zim­babwe Mil­i­tary Staff Col­lege which is af­fil­i­ated to Univer­sity of Zim­babwe and ob­tained a Diploma in De­fence, Se­cu­rity, Strate­gic Stud­ies and In­ter­na­tional re­la­tions”.

In 2010 he was then ap­pointed Lieu­tenant Colonel and con­tin­ued fly­ing while at­tend­ing numer­ous cour­ses and de­vel­op­ments pro­grammes.

In April 2012, he was ap­pointed act­ing com­man­der of the LDF Air Wing and in June 2013 he was con­firmed LDF Air Wing com­man­der and Colonel.

“The fol­low­ing year in 2014, I went to South Africa Na­tional De­fence Col­lege in Pre­to­ria to study for the Ex­ec­u­tive Na­tional Se­cu­rity course.

Be­fore leav­ing for the course, he had been pro­moted to the rank of Bri­gadier.

“In Jan­uary 2015 when I re­turned back home there was a very bad po­lit­i­cal cloud in the coun­try. It is that time when the time when mutiny al­le­ga­tions sur­faced in the LDF.

“I was tem­po­rar­ily pro­moted to Ma­jor Gen­eral just for the pur­pose of pre­sid­ing the court mar­tial against the sol­diers who were ar­rested be­tween May and June 2015 on al­le­ga­tions that they were part of a foiled plot to top­ple the LDF com­mand”.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter for­mer com­man­der, Lt-gen Tlali Kamoli left the LDF in De­cem­ber 2016, the com­mand struc­ture changed and Lt Gen Let­soela was ap­pointed Act­ing Deputy Com­man­der in ad­min­is­tra­tion re­spon­si­ble for staff ad­min­is­tra­tion and hu­man re­source af­fairs.

“I had to multi-task as Air Wing com­man­der and act­ing Deputy Com­man­der un­til 5 Septem­ber 2017 when the for­mer army com­man­der, Lt Gen Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, was mur­dered.

He then deputised the-then act­ing army com­man­der, Re­tired Ma­jor Gen­eral Li­neo Poopa, un­til 23 Jan­uary, 2018 when he was ap­pointed sub­stan­tive Lt-gen and com­man­der of the LDF.

Lt Gen Let­soela says that the LDF went off the rails dur­ing the pe­riod from 2014 and now needed to “speed­ily re­turn to the right track”.

He says his vi­sion was to re-align the LDF so that it be­comes an in­sti­tu­tion that clearly un­der­stands democ­racy, civil and mil­i­tary re­la­tions where the army re­spect­fully and will­ingly sub­mit­ted to civil­ian au­thor­ity with­out re­bel­lion”.

“We were at a sit­u­a­tion where one could say we were off track and we should speed­ily come back to the right track,” Lt Gen Let­soela said.

“We are fac­ing chal­lenges in our quest to see the es­tab­lish­ment of a sta­ble sys­tem of good gov­er­nance based on the rule of law ac­cord­ing to the pre­cepts of Le­sotho’s con­sti­tu­tion.

“It is my vi­sion to see the LDF re­spect­fully sub­mit­ting to civil au­thor­ity with­out re­bel­lion. We have to un­der­stand that there is civil­ian au­thor­ity and that will help us un­der­stand the im­por­tance of rule of law, proper gov­er­nance and de­vel­op­ment.”

Lt Gen Let­soela also em­pha­sises the need for the LDF to be fully ac­count­able and re­spect­ful in its be­hav­iour to­wards civil­ians.

He said sol­diers could not just one wake up one day and claim to have con­ducted an op­er­a­tion where they mas­sa­cred civil­ians who looked to them for pro­tec­tion.

“We (sol­diers) can’t just wake up, stran­gle peo­ple and throw them in dams and not ac­count for our deeds,” he said in ref­er­ence to the May 2017 in­ci­dent where three men were killed by LDF of­fi­cers and their bod­ies were thrown into the Mo­hale Dam.

“As a state se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tion, we have to fully ac­count for our ac­tions, op­er­a­tions and pro­grammes,” he said, adding, “The na­tional as­sem­bly through their port­fo­lio com­mit­tees should be ac­tive and pres­sure us to ad­here to demo­cratic principles”.

“The sol­diers should have trans­par­ent fi­nan­cial re­ports and never hide be­hind claims that se­cu­rity is­sues are sen­si­tive. They must re­port and ac­count for money spent.

“The civil so­ci­ety in­formed about ac­tiv­i­ties of the army that at­tract pub­lic in­ter­est to avoid neg­a­tive per­cep­tions. When every­thing is in the right di­rec­tion then ev­ery ac­tiv­ity that is in the pub­lic in­ter­est should open for the pub­lic to know.”

Time will tell whether or not his vi­sion for the LDF will be fully re­alised.

LDF Com­man­der Lt. Gen­eral Mo­jalefa Let­soela

LDF com­man­der Lt-gen Mo­jalefa Ex­av­ery Let­soela.

LDF com­man­der Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mo­jalefa Let­soela.

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