SADC warns Ba­sotho on po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

SOUTH­ERN African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ( SADC) Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair­per­son, Ma­tias Bertino Ma­tondo, has warned Ba­sotho on the per­ils of chronic in­sta­bil­ity, say­ing there is need to en­gage in a se­ri­ous soul-search­ing ex­er­cise to es­tab­lish why Le­sotho is the only one, out of 15 re­gional coun­tries, to con­tin­u­ously en­dure an un­sta­ble po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in which govern­ments do not last full terms and army com­man­ders are killed by sub­or­di­nates.

A se­ri­ous com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis of Le­sotho against the stan­dards of its re­gional peers would also help Ba­sotho fo­cus on the things they need to im­prove to rid the King­dom of its tag as the peren­nial bad boy of the re­gion.

Dr Ma­tondo de­fended last month’s de­ploy­ment of the SADC standby force to Le­sotho which has been crit­i­cised by op­po­si­tion par­ties and some sec­tions of civil so­ci­ety, say­ing it was a nec­es­sary move to cre­ate a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of SADC rec­om­men­da­tions.

He said some peo­ple were “obliv­i­ous of what was hap­pen­ing” on the ground in Le­sotho and there was more to the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try than meets the eye, ne­ces­si­tat­ing the SADC de­ploy­ment.

The SADC standby force, also known as the SADC Preven­tive Mis­sion in the King­dom of Le­sotho (SAPMIL), was de­ployed to Le­sotho on 2 De­cem­ber, 2017. The standby force is made of 217 sol­diers, 15 in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel, 24 po­lice of­fi­cers and 13 civil­ian ex­perts.

A con­fi­den­tial SADC re­port that was pre­pared ahead of the de­ploy­ment of the SADC force and seen by this pub­li­ca­tion, stated that the lat­ter had a man­date of as­sist­ing the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) in man­ag­ing the se­cu­rity cri­sis in the coun­try 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.

Ac­cord­ing to SADC, 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”.

The con­fi­den­tial SADC re­port also speaks of arms of war and am­mu­ni­tion miss­ing from the ar­mory of the LDF as well as heavy AK47 ri­fles that had dis­ap­peared from the Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (LCS).

Also miss­ing are the arms con­fis­cated by the LDF from the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) dur­ing a coup at­tempt on 30 Au­gust 2014 when the army raided and seized arms from po­lice sta­tions around Maseru.

It is sus­pected that all these arms are in the pos­ses­sion of rogue el­e­ments of the LDF who might want to use them to launch reprisal at­tacks, height­en­ing in­sta­bil­ity in the King­dom.

And even though there is a sem­blance of sta­bil­ity since Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Thabane was re­turned to power in the June 3 2017 elec­tions, Dr Ma­tondo said the standby force was nec­es­sary to main­tain sta­bil­ity while Le­sotho em­barked on cru­cial re­forms to en­sure last­ing peace which was cru­cial to so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times this week, Dr Ma­tondo said peo­ple should not be de­ceived by the fact that peo­ple were go­ing on with their busi­ness as usual as there could be sim­mer­ing ten­sions be­low the sur­face which could de­stroy the peace.

“I have been telling our col­leagues, broth­ers and sis­ters from the King­dom of Le­sotho that every­thing is peace­ful un­til some­thing hap­pens and when things hap­pen, they come unan­nounced,” Dr Ma­tondo said.

“I have been telling them that a sin­gle bul­let to some­body’s head-God for­bids- can dis­rupt the whole (re­forms) process. We should not take things at face value and be de­ceived by the fact that peo­ple are go­ing on with their busi­ness as usual.”

He said the standby force was not here to fight but to pro­tect Ba­sotho, which is why theirs was termed a “pre­ven­ta­tive mis­sion”.

“We are here to en­sure that no one is ar­rested out of per­sonal vendet­tas, that hu­man rights are pro­tected and that no one is abused. We are not here to fight with the Ba­sotho.

“Our mis­sion is to help strengthen peace, se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, lend as­sis­tance in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional, pub­lic and se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms in line with SADC de­ci­sions and rec­om­men­da­tions.

“We en­vi­sion a peace­ful, sta­ble and vi­brant King­dom of Le­sotho geared to­wards the re­al­i­sa­tion of its full eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural po­ten­tial through sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment,” Dr Ma­tondo said.

He said it would be a “beau­ti­ful” thing for Ba­sotho to do com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis to es­tab­lish why other SADC coun­tries had not ex­pe­ri­enced the kind of up­heavals Le­sotho was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

“How many coun­tries have gone through what has been tak­ing place here? How many chief of de­fence forces have been killed by their ju­nior of­fi­cers?

“It has never hap­pened in South Africa, An­gola, Namibia, Tan­za­nia, Malawi, Botswana, Swazi­land, Zam­bia or Zim­babwe but it hap­pened here twice. We have to ask our­selves, what is wrong, why should ju­nior of­fi­cers kill their se­nior of­fi­cers twice? These are ques­tions all Ba­sotho should ask them­selves.

“Se­condly, why do we have so many snap elec­tions here in the King­dom of Le­sotho? Why should we have snap elec­tion af­ter snap elec­tion in this coun­try?”

Dr Ma­tondo said all these is­sues needed to be ur­gently ad­dressed to en­sure that govern­ments were given a chance to rule the coun­try for a full term af­ter the re­form process.

“So peo­ple should not be obliv­i­ous of what is hap­pen­ing here be­cause some­times we wake up in the morn­ing think­ing every­thing is al­right when it is not al­right.

“Only when things hap­pen do we say there is some­thing wrong that ought to be ad­dressed. Com- mon crimes will hap­pen but when things are tak­ing place and are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, then there is some­thing wrong,” he said, adding they were also en­gag­ing the me­dia to spread the cor­rect mes­sage about the SADC mis­sion which was to en­gage Ba­sotho to en­sure that the SADC de­ci­sions and rec­om­men­da­tions were fully im­ple­mented.

“We will as­sist our Ba­sotho broth­ers and sis­ters with train­ing, ca­pac­ity build­ing and ad­dress­ing the root causes of in­sta­bil­ity and these root causes are em­bed­ded in the po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion.”

He said Le­sotho was the only coun­try in SADC where floor cross­ing was so ac­tive and dy­namic that a politi­cian could be part of a coali­tion one day and sud­denly shift al­le­giance re­sult­ing in the col­lapse of the gov­ern­ment.

“We have done a di­ag­no­sis and there are spe­cific pro­vi­sions that need to be amended and one of the key is­sues which should be ad­dressed is that of floor cross­ing.” Dr Ma­tondo said, adding that fail­ure to abol­ish floor cross­ing was a recipe for an­ar­chy where govern­ments would con­tinue to col­lapse soon af­ter be­ing formed.

“Why not give a gov­ern­ment time to go through the full-term to fo­cus on de­vel­op­ment and in­vest­ment? We are not say­ing the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence should be abol­ished be­cause those are in­stru­ments of democ­racy but they are in­stru­ments that should not be abused but used as mech­a­nisms of hold­ing govern­ments ac­count­able.”

He added: “We are not try­ing to please SADC but to build last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in this coun­try. We want to en­sure that there is real peace and sta­bil­ity and that no one will have a rea­son to flee this coun­try”.

“No one in op­po­si­tion should flee. There will be no need to flee when every­body is pro­tected by the law. This is what democ­racy is all about,” he said.

w“We ill as­sist our Ba­sotho broth­ers and sis­ters with train­ing, ca­pac­ity build­ing and ad­dress­ing the root causes of in­sta­bil­ity

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