GOVT WARNS OF ARMY RE­VOLT

Ac­cuses op­po­si­tion lead­ers and for­mer se­cu­rity chiefs of plot­ting may­hem.

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

THE gov­ern­ment has ac­cused top se­cu­rity of­fi­cers, who fled the coun­try, of plot­ting with ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers to desta­bilise the coun­try.

Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s coali­tion says the for­mer se­nior se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and the op­po­si­tion lead­ers have been hold­ing se­cret meet­ings in South Africa with the sole aim of plot­ting to cause havoc in the coun­try. The se­cret plots, along­side the fact that in­car­cer­ated for­mer army boss, Tlali Kamoli, still com­manded a sig­nif­i­cant fol­low­ing in the army, raised the spec­tre of a re­volt.

The gov­ern­ment’s con­cerns are out­lined in a de­tailed re­port pre­sented to a dou­ble troika sum­mit of the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) in Luanda, An­gola, last week. The re­port sought to jus­tify why SADC should ex­tend its troops de­ploy­ment in Le­sotho. The gov­ern­ment seems to have suc­ceeded in that ob­jec­tive as SADC agreed to ex­tend its troops de­ploy­ment in Le­sotho for a fur­ther six months. The Le­sotho Times has ob­tained a copy of the re­port which paints a graphic pic­ture of the gov­ern­ment’s fears, in­clud­ing its con­cerns that Lt-gen Kamoli still holds sway in the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF), and would or­ches­trate a re­volt if given the op­por­tu­nity.

The re­port also re­veals the gov­ern­ment’s im­pend­ing plans to ar­rest se­nior army of­fi­cers for trea­son, aris­ing from the 30 Au­gust 2014 coup at­tempt. The ar­rests could trig­ger a re­volt from rene­gades in the army who par­took in the ill-fated coup at­tempt, hence the need for SADC troops to re­main in Le­sotho, the gov­ern­ment says.

The re­port ar­gues that the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho re­mains volatile. The im­pend­ing ar­rests of the se­nior army and po­lice of­fi­cials as well as the de­lays in ex­tra­dit­ing op­po­si­tion lead­ers, who are cur­rently in self-im­posed ex­ile in South Africa, could spark a re­volt, the gov­ern­ment ar­gued.

While ex­tend­ing its troop de­ploy­ment by an­other six months, SADC also gave Le­sotho un­til May 2019 to fully im­ple­ment con­sti­tu­tional and se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms rec­om­mended by the re­gional body.

The man­date of the re­gional body’s troops in Le­sotho, also known as the SADC Pre­ven­tive Mis­sion in Le­sotho (SAPMIL), was sup­posed to have ended this month. It has now been ex­tended to Novem­ber 2018 as part of ef­forts to en­sure that the re­forms are im­ple­mented and not sab­o­taged.

The gov­ern­ment sin­gled out for­mer po­lice com­mis­sioner, Mo­lahlehi Let­soepa, and for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ser­vice (NSS) di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Tumo Lekhooa, who all fled to South Africa as the net closed in on them, as the mas­ter­minds of se­cret meet­ings with op­po­si­tion lead­ers to plot the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of the cur­rent coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

Le­sotho Congress of Democ­racy (LCD) leader Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing and his deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi fled the coun­try last year al­leg­ing their lives were in dan­ger. The gov­ern­ment has how­ever de­nied plot­ting to as­sas­si­nate them. Dr Tha­bane has de­scribed Mr Mets­ing as a fugitive from jus­tice who is scared of be­ing ar­rested over al­leged fraud and cor­rup­tion. But the Tha­bane gov­ern­ment has also promised him se­cu­rity if he re­turns to par­take in the re­forms process.

Ef­forts to reach Messrs Mets­ing and Mokhosi on the lat­est al­le­ga­tions against them failed yes­ter­day. We could also not reach the for­mer top se­cu­rity of­fi­cers, Messrs Lekhooa and Let­soepa, who have main­tained stony si­lence since they skipped the coun­try after the ouster of the pre­vi­ous Pakalitha Mo­sisili regime which they served.

The Tha­bane gov­ern­ment warned in its re­port that murder-ac­cused for­mer com­man­der, LtGen Tlali Kamoli, still had a sig­nif­i­cant fol­low­ing within the army which could fuel a re­volt un­less SADC troops re­mained in Le­sotho to sub­due such threats. More­over, there were still un­re­cov­ered firearms that went miss­ing from the LDF and Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (LCS) ar­mouries and that could be at the dis­posal of Kamoli sym­pa­thiz­ers.

“There is a pos­si­bil­ity of the de­gen­er­a­tion of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion which war­rants im­me­di­ate and long-term res­o­lu­tions.

“While ef­forts to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers are con­tin­u­ing, the coun­try needs other con­fi­dence build­ing mech­a­nisms aimed at restor­ing cor­dial re­la­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion. It is on the ba­sis of the fore­go­ing that an ex­ten­sion of the SAPMIL is nec­es­sary to en­sure that Le­sotho at­tains the en­vis­aged re­forms and last­ing peace,” the gov­ern­ment said in its re­port, ti­tled; ‘Up­date on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of SADC de­ci­sions and rec­om­men­da­tions on the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho and the re­form process from 26 Feb­ru­ary to 20 April 2018’.

The re­port force­fully con­cludes that the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho re­mains volatile. Un­less the SADC troops’ ten­ure in the coun­try is ex­tended, there were high chances that fugitive for­mer se­cu­rity chiefs, ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers and rene­gade sol­diers could fo­ment chaos in the coun­try.

“The pend­ing cases wherein high rank­ing LDF of­fi­cials are im­pli­cated in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties also heighten ten­sion within the army,” the re­port says.

“Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is the case re­lat­ing to LtGen Tlali Kamoli who still has a fol­low­ing within the army ranks. On the other hand, pend­ing ar­rests of other se­nior LDF of­fi­cers, for­mer po­lice com­mis­sioner, Mo­lahlehi Let­soepa and for­mer NSS di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Tumo Lekhooa and some op­po­si­tion lead­ers are a cause for con­cern as the re­ac­tion of LDF mem­bers could trig­ger a re­volt.

“More­over, the for­mer heads of LMPS and NSS who fled to South Africa con­tinue to hold se­cret meet­ings with op­po­si­tion lead­ers rais­ing the pos- sibil­ity that they could be plan­ning to desta­bilise the gov­ern­ment. The con­tin­ued stay of these lead­ers in South Africa and the de­lay in agree­ing to ex­tra­dite leader of LCD could ac­tu­ally ag­gra­vate the sit­u­a­tion where it will ul­ti­mately force the gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with the re­forms with­out them.”

The gov­ern­ment also re­ported that it had made progress to­wards kick-start­ing the stalled re­forms process. It said one of the mile­stones that have been re­cently achieved is the set­ting up of a steer­ing com­mit­tee that will work on the se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms.

“A steer­ing com­mit­tee was re­cently formed and it is struc­tured at a three-tier level. At the apex are the min­is­ters of De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity, as well as the Po­lice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices. Be­low the min­is­ters are the prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries and chiefs of se­cu­rity agen­cies, and at the third level is the tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee com­posed of se­nior tech­ni­cal peo­ple from the two min­istries and se­cu­rity agen­cies.

“The out­put of the steer­ing com­mit­tee is in­tended to dove­tail into the work of the over­all re­forms struc­tures in the King­dom. Dis­cus­sions are al­ready en­su­ing with re­gard to quick wins, for ex­am­ple, to­wards re­solv­ing the over­lap­ping func­tions of the two (army and po­lice) sec­tors.

Com­ment­ing on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments, the po­lice com­mis­sioner, Holomo Moli­beli yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times that there was need to clearly de­lin­eate the pow­ers of the po­lice and the army to avoid the du­pli­ca­tion of roles.

He said while both the Po­lice Act of 1998 and the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) Act of 1996 speak of crime preven­tion, the lat­ter act was not ex­plicit in its ar­tic­u­la­tion of the role of sol­diers to avoid the over­lap­ping of man­dates with the po­lice.

“The dis­cus­sions be­tween the two in­sti­tu­tions are still on go­ing and I want to avoid a sit­u­a­tion where I speak about is­sues pre­ma­turely. How­ever, the Po­lice Act doesn’t need too much work ex­cept for a few clauses which should pro­vide for the clear sep­a­ra­tion of du­ties be­tween the po­lice or the army,” Mr Moli­beli said.

The gov­ern­ment also un­veiled a pro­gramme of events in­di­cat­ing that this month will be a busy pe­riod in terms of ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at kick-start­ing and fur­ther­ing the re­forms process.

Ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment sched­ule pre­sented in An­gola, the gov­ern­ment will this morn­ing meet the SADC Over­sight Com­mit­tee in Maseru but the agenda has not been re­vealed.

Dr Tha­bane will ad­dress par­lia­ment on the re­forms agenda on Mon­day and a na­tional day of prayer for the re­forms has been pen­cilled for the 13th.

The Na­tional Dia­logue Plan­ning Com­mit­tee will be launched on the 16th and the Na­tional Lead­ers Fo­rum will con­vene on the 24th.

Be­fore then, other ac­tiv­i­ties slated for this month in­clude ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes at dif­fer­ent ra­dio sta­tions to dis­cuss the re­forms as well as meet­ings be­tween gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and civil ser­vants of dif­fer­ent grades.

PO­LICE Com­mis­sioner Holomo Moli­beli.

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