Govt fumes over SADC mission
. . . accuses bloc’s defence chiefs of overruling Double Troika decision
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane’s government is demanding answers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) after the bloc’s defence chiefs decided to dispatch a third security assessment mission to Lesotho on 18 October 2017 despite the regional body’s earlier commitment to deploy a 1 200-strong standby force by 1 November 2017.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Lesego Makgothi, is today expected to meet SADC Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, in Gaborone, Botswana, to get an explanation on the latest decision by the regional body’s Defence Sub Committee and voice Lesotho’s strong indignation over it. The Defence Sub Committee comprises of army commanders from all of SADC’S 14 member states.
Mr Makgothi told the Lesotho Times en route to Botswana yesterday that the government wanted to know how the Defence Sub Committee could “overrule” a decision of the SADC Double Troika Summit to deploy a contingent or standby force to Lesotho. He said the subcommittee was only supposed to have discussed and decided the contingent force’s size, tenure and scope and never to make a new decision about deploying anoth- er assessment mission.
The Defence Sub Committee met last Friday in Luanda, Angola to deliberate on the findings of a 40-member SADC technical assessment team that was in Lesotho between 24 and 28 September 2017.
The technical assessment team had been dispatched by a 15 September SADC Double Troika Summit to assess the security situation in Lesotho after the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-general Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were gunned down by Lt-gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards in the aftermath of the assassination, while a third suspect, Captain Boiketsiso Fonane, is in military detention.
The summit also approved Lesotho’s request for a standby force consisting of military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF in managing the se- curity crisis in the country in the aftermath of the assassination and during the implementation of security sector reforms recommended by the regional body. According to Mr Makgothi, the standby force woulkd consist of 1 099 troops, 30 civilians, 34 police officers, one pathologist, four scuba divers and a police mobile unit.
The technical assessment team held consultative meetings with the government, representatives of opposition political parties and other non-state actors such as the Christian Council of Lesotho and the Lesotho Council of NGOS. The mission was comprised of senior military, police and state security and civilian officers from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and the SADC Secretariat. Botswana participated in the mission in the country’s capacity as chair of the Defence Intelligence Standing Committee.
At the end of the mission, the team prepared a detailed report with recommenda- tions on the requirements and modalities for the deployment of the standby force. The defence and security chiefs were then only supposed to determine the size, tenure and scope of the contingent force before its deployment to the Mountain Kingdom, according to a statement issued by SADC after the visit.
SADC had also dispatched a Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission to Lesotho soon after Lt-gen Motšomotšo’s assassination on 7 September led by then Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti. The fact-finding mission submitted its findings to the bloc’s chairperson and South African President Jacob Zuma ahead of the 15 September summit.
Mr Makgothi said the government was now “baffled” after being notified by SADC that a third mission was coming to Lesotho on 18 October 2017.