In­def­i­nite leave for ‘mutiny sol­diers’

Sunday Express - - NEWS - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

FORTY-FIVE sol­diers ac­cused of be­ing part of a mutiny plot by the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­mand have been granted an in­def­i­nite leave of ab­sence to al­low them time to de­cide whether or not they want to con­tinue as mem­bers of the se­cu­rity agency.

The 45 were slapped with mutiny charges in 2015 by the LDF which was then un­der the com­mand of Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli who re­tired on 1 De­cem­ber 2016.

Twenty-two of the sus­pected mu­ti­neers were ar­rested and de­tained at the Maseru Max­i­mum Prison while the rest fled the coun­try be­tween 2014 and 2015.

They were ac­cused of work­ing in ca­hoots with for­mer army com­man­der, Lt-Gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, who was later killed by fel­low sol­diers in June 2015 while al­legedly re­sist­ing ar­rest in Mokema.

Lt-Gen Ma­hao’s fam­ily dis­missed the LDF’s claims that he re­sisted ar­rest and in­stead ac­cused the army of killing him in cold blood.

Af­ter the killing, the South African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) es­tab­lished a com­mis­sion to probe the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the in­ci­dent led by the re­tired Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The 10-mem­ber com­mis­sion car­ried out its in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015 and con­cluded that there was no mutiny plot and rec­om­mended an amnesty for the sus­pected mu­ti­neers. It also rec­om­mended, among other things, that gov­ern­ment should in­ves­ti­gate LtGen Ma­hao’s killing and pros­e­cute those found to be re­spon­si­ble.

The sus­pected mu­ti­neers were how­ever, not granted an amnesty, with Dr Mo­sisili’s ad­min­is­tra­tion plac­ing 22 sol­diers on open ar­rest.

The Mo­sisili regime ar­gued that it could only grant a blan­ket amnesty for both the sus­pected mu­ti­neers and other sol­diers sus­pected of se­ri­ous crimes whom the com­mis­sion wanted to be pros­e­cuted.

The seven-party coali­tion gov­ern­ment was how­ever, ousted in the wake of the 3 June 2017 snap elec­tions which ush­ered in the cur­rent four-party gov­ern­ing coali­tion headed by Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane.

Three weeks ago, the gov­ern­ment fa­cili- tated the safe re­turn of the ex­iled sol­diers and gave them the op­tion of re­join­ing the army or tak­ing early re­tire­ment.

The De­fence Min­istry’s Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Re­tired Colonel Tanki Mothae, on Fri­day, told the Sun­day Ex­press that the 45 sol­diers were given an in­def­i­nite leave of ab­sence from work to en­able them to de­cide on their fu­ture. “We need to be very sen­si­tive when han­dling this mat­ter as those who were in ex­ile have been sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies for a long time and need to be given enough time to re­con­nect with their fam­i­lies and make sober de­ci­sions re­gard­ing their fu­ture in the army,” Col Mothae said.

“Some of the sol­diers want to go back to work while oth­ers are no longer in­ter­ested in go­ing back to work and want to take early re­tire­ment,” he said, adding that the first step was to en­sure that all the sol­diers got proper coun­selling as they had ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of trauma.”

He said the rein­te­gra­tion process was slow and ar­du­ous, adding that it needed to be han­dled with care. Col Mothae also in­di­cated that they were work­ing with non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Trans­for­ma­tion Re­source Cen­tre and Chris­tian Coun­cil of Le­sotho in the process.

Asked if the sol­diers were ready to deal with what they went through at the hands of the army, Col Mothae said: “They are ready to deal with th­ese is­sues and be­ing true sol­diers, they un­der­stand how the mil­i­tary op­er­ates and they are will­ing to work with the cur­rent army com­mand to ad­dress th­ese is­sues.”

He said talks were held with other mem­bers of the army to en­sure that the 45 sol­diers were wholly ac­cepted by their fel­lows who re­mained in the army while they fled.

Asked if the 45 were ab­solved of the mutiny charges, Col Mothae said the mutiny charges “never ex­isted in the vo­cab­u­lary” of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment.

He said the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry ex­plic­itly said there was no mutiny plot, adding that gov­ern­ment was now work­ing hard to en­sure there was sus­tain­able peace and sta­bil­ity in the army and in the coun­try.

Col Mothae said gov­ern­ment was work­ing very hard to cre­ate a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of se­cu­rity, con­sti­tu­tional, me­dia, pub­lic sec­tor and ju­di­cial re­forms.

This process, which has among other de­vel­op­ments, seen the ar­rest of sol­diers sus­pected of se­ri­ous crimes, is hap­pen­ing a month be­fore the ex­pected ar­rival of a 1 200-strong SADC standby force in Le­sotho.

The gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho re­quested the standby force con­sist­ing of mil­i­tary, se­cu­rity, in­tel­li­gence and civil­ian ex­perts to as­sist the LDF in man­ag­ing the se­cu­rity cri­sis in the coun­try in the af­ter­math of the 5 Septem­ber 2017 as­sas­si­na­tion of LDF com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo by his sub­or­di­nates Brigadier Bu­lane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Other de­vel­op­ments in­clude the de­ten­tion of Lt-Gen Kamoli last Wed­nes­day and his on­go­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion by po­lice over crimes com­mit­ted un­der his watch by the mil­i­tary.

DE­FENCE Min­istry Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Re­tired Colonel Tanki Mothae

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