SADC crafts code of con­duct for standby force

Sunday Express - - News -

THE South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) has pledged to come up with a “strong code of con­duct” that will gov­ern the con­duct of the SADC standby force to avoid a re­peat of past in­ci­dents where some SADC troops were ac­cused on im­proper as­so­ci­a­tions with lo­cals, par­tic­u­larly women dur­ing their tour of duty in 1998.

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 im­ple­menta- tion of the se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms and the rec­om­men­da­tions of the SADC”. It was ex­pected in the coun­try yes­ter­day. The 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. A SADC re­port ti­tled “Draft in­te­grated mis­sion plan for the de­ploy­ment of the con­tin­gent mis­sion to the King­dom of Le­sotho,” seen by this pub­li­ca­tion, 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 Lt-Gen 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 es­tab­lish- ment of a Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion may be con­sid­ered”. There have been some con­cerns in the coun­try that there could be a re­peat of the 1998 episode where some SADC troops re­port­edly lured lo­cal women into sex­ual li­aisons in ex­change for money and food­stuffs. This fol­lowed the Septem­ber 1998 de­ploy­ment of 1000 SADC sol­diers from South Africa and Botswana “to in­ter­vene mil­i­tar­ily in Le­sotho to pre­vent any fur­ther an­ar­chy and to cre­ate a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment for the restora­tion of law and or­der”. The in­sta­bil­ity which was caused by muti­nous mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) who seized arms and ammu- ni­tion and ex­pelled or im­pris­oned their com­mand­ing of­fi­cers.

The sol­diers took ad­van­tage of the dis­sat­is­fac­tion of some op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties who re­fused to ac­cept the re­sults of the May 1998 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions which gave then Prime Min­is­ter, Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy Party, an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of 79 out of 80 seats.

Govern­ment ve­hi­cles were hi­jacked, the broad­cast­ing sta­tion was closed, and the Prime Min­is­ter and other min­is­ters were vir­tu­ally held hostage.

The Le­sotho po­lice had lost con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and the South African De­fence Force (SANDF) feared that a mil­i­tary coup was be­ing planned.

The SADC forces were de­ployed in key ar­eas and com­mu­ni­ties of in­ter­est for eight months, and many of them were ac­cused of giv­ing money, food­stuffs like beef and peanuts in ex­change for sex.

There were even claims that the sex­ual prac­tices con­tributed to HIV and other sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions.

This was in ad­di­tion to re­ports of re­sul­tant preg­nan­cies which cre­ated emo­tional and fi­nan­cial bur­dens among sin­gle mothers and their fam­i­lies who were left to look after the chil­dren born out of wed­lock.

With the loom­ing de­ploy­ment of the lat­est standby force, SADC Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair­per­son, Ma­tias Bertino Ma­tondo re­cently told the me­dia that they had drawn up a code of con­duct after re­ceiv­ing com­plaints that the past SADC troops’ at­ti­tudes did not con­form to lo­cal values and norms.

“Our troops are also de­ploy­ing with a con­crete man­date and with a very strong code of con­duct be­cause we don’t want things that hap­pened in the past to hap­pen again,” Dr Ma­tondo said, adding they were op­ti­mistic that “this time around things would be dif­fer­ent”.

He said the con­cerns of past mis­deeds by SADC forces had been raised by op­po­si­tion par­ties and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“That is why we are say­ing that this time around we are mak­ing sure that our troops be­have the way they are sup­posed to be­have, to up­hold the high­est stan­dard of moral­ity that is the hall­mark of SADC,” Dr Ma­tondo said.

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