SADC delays sending protection force into troubled Lesotho

    0
    4

    The Southern African Development Community
    (SADC) has decided to send another technical assessment mission
    to Lesotho before taking the crucial step of sending a
    peacekeeping force into the troubled
    country.

    SADC military chiefs met in Luanda on Friday
    to consider recommendations for a “multidimensional” contingent
    force of about 1,000 military, civilian, police and
    intelligence officials to go into Lesotho by 1
    November.

    Its initial mission would be to protect Prime
    Minister Tom Thabane’s government as it attempts to implement
    previous SADC recommendations to crack down on military
    officers guilty of several serious crimes, including the murder
    of former military chief Maaparankoe Mahao in June
    2015.

    The need for an SADC protection force was
    dramatically underscored on 5 September when the current
    military chief, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo, was
    shot dead in his office in Ratjomose barracks in Maseru by his
    subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo
    Hashatsi. They were in turn swiftly shot dead by Motšomotšo’s
    bodyguards.

    Sechele and Hashatsi apparently shot
    Motšomotšo because he refused to protect them against moves by
    Thabane’s government to implement SADC directives to prosecute
    them and others for past crimes, including complicity in
    Mahao’s death.

    A special SADC summit held in Pretoria on 15
    September decided to send an SADC technical assessment team to
    Lesotho from 25-27 September. After wide consultations there,
    this team drafted detailed recommendations for an SADC
    contingent force, including its size and
    mission.

    Officials said it had recommended a
    battalion-strength force, suggesting about 1,000 personnel were
    necessary to do the job.

    SADC military chiefs were instructed to
    assess the plan at their meeting in Luanda on Friday. But an
    official said they had decided they needed more information and
    so decided to send another technical assessment mission to
    Lesotho this week.

    It would investigate where exactly the force
    should be deployed in Lesotho, among other details. The
    official added that although it still looked as though the
    proposed force would be at battalion strength, the size had
    also not yet been finalised.

    The military chiefs had also not yet decided
    who should lead the force, though it was likely to be an
    Angolan military officer, as Angola is the current chair of the
    SADC organ on politics, defence and security, which is in
    charge of the Lesotho case.

    The official insisted, though, that despite
    the outstanding decisions, the force would still be deployed by
    the 1 November deadline.

    He noted that an advance oversight contingent
    of 34 military, police, intelligence and civilian officials had
    already been in Lesotho for a few weeks.

    Professor Mafa Sejanamane, of the political
    science department of the National University of Lesotho,
    believes that the SADC’s decision to deploy a substantial
    peacekeeping force shows that it has at last realised that it
    must first tackle the security crisis in Lesotho before
    embarking on the broader political and constitutional reforms
    which were recommended by the SADC’s Phumaphi Commission after
    the killing of Mahao.

    In a recent blog, Sejanamane wrote that this
    recognition had been missing from SADC’s earlier interventions,
    “which saw politics as opposed to security as the source of
    Lesotho’s unstable environment”.

    As a result, he said, the SADC had persuaded
    Lesotho to hold early elections in February 2015 as a first
    step towards addressing the crisis which had erupted in an
    attempted military coup in August 2014.

    But four months after the
    elections, Mahao was gunned down by other military officers.
    Motšomotšo’s killing last month then jolted the SADC into
    taking a stronger approach.

    DM

    Photo: A file picture dated 02 April 2014
    shows the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Tom
    Thabane, arriving at the fourth EU-Africa Summit of Heads of
    States at the European council headquarters in Brussels,
    Belgium. EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

    LEAVE A REPLY