Army is ripe  for reform

Army is ripe for reform

ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story of how some soldiers went berserk last weekend, beating up villagers after one of their own was assaulted at a beer drink.
Tragically, one person died during the fracas.

We are not surprised that things turned out that way. Sadly, we have heard stories similar to this one many a time.
While the bulk of our soldiers are quite smart and are committed to the cause of serving the nation, we cannot hide from the fact that the army also has pockets of rogue officers.
These officers think they can act above the law by virtue of holding superior gun-fire.

We think that has been at the root of most of the cases in which soldiers have been implicated in cases of human rights abuses.
What makes this really sad is that we are not hearing such stories for the first time.
Only a few years ago, there was a perception that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) under Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli had gone rogue.

We had soldiers who were accused of serious rights violations against citizens. The soldiers would beat and sometimes kill civilians for the most innocuous of allegations.
About 40 of these soldiers are currently in detention awaiting trial at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
Most of these have been in detention since 2017.

When pressed into a corner, the army disowned these soldiers as rogue elements whose values were no longer in sync with that of the LDF.
We bought that story and gave the army the benefit of the doubt.
However, the events of last weekend would seem to suggest we were quick to absolve the army as a unit.

It is our position that when the army crosses the line, as we saw last weekend in Peka, then we must quickly raise the flag and point out its misdemeanours.
It would be a clear case of dereliction of duty were we to see these things and look aside.

However, by raising these issues we seek no confrontation with the army. We are merely performing our role as the voice of the voiceless in a democratic society.
It is precisely for that reason that we wish to condemn the naked violence that we saw last weekend. The army command must ensure there is no repeat of such tragic incidents.
We also note how the army mobilised its resources such as a helicopter to conduct the operation. We are not surprised that the story has triggered a sharp reaction from villagers.

The whole operation appeared way overboard.
Why would the army marshal such resources to deal with what appears to us to be a simple case of common assault?
That the army was willing to mobilise resources of that magnitude to deal with unarmed villagers is a shame.

Even if we assume the villagers were armed, we do not think that warranted such a response from the army.
We believe this was merely a criminal matter which the police, no matter how inefficient we might think they are, would have handled without any fuss.

The army had no business “arresting” villagers for whatever crime.
The reasons are simple: the army is not structurally designed to deal with crime; their role is to enforce national security.
The incident is yet another vivid reminder that the army is ripe for reform.

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