Army must resist manipulation

Army must resist manipulation

A few days ago 70 non-commissioned army officers attended a special course on human rights, governance, democracy, diversity and accountability.
At the end of the course Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) deputy commander, Major General Matela Matobakele, reminded the soldiers of their subservient role to civilians.
He said the training was part of the building blocks towards the implementation of the security sector reforms.
We are encouraged by the efforts to transform the army into a professional unit. Yet we are not under any illusion that such courses for a handful of soldiers will make a whole lot of difference.
Our army has been on a crooked path for decades.

It is teeming with rogue elements ready to be manipulated and used by power-hungry politicians.
It will therefore take much more than the re-training of a few soldiers to transform our army.

We recall that this is not the first course aimed at professionalising the army.
The Indians and the British have worked with our army to achieve the same goal. Several soldiers have been to countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to gather the same knowledge and values.

We have one of the most educated armies in Southern Africa.
The reasonable expectation is that this army knows the proper role it should play in the country.
The problem however is that this is an army that has dismally failed to resist the urge to dabble in politics. It has allowed itself to be dragged from the barracks by mischievous politicians.
The idea that civilians must control the gun for the greater good has been jettisoned.

In its place is a toxic politicization of the army. The result has been decades of political instability punctuated with coups and attempted coups.
We have been too fixated with sorting out our messy politics that we have forgotten to work on our fledgling economy.
As a result poverty is biting, unemployment worsening while the economy remains largely stagnant and rudimental.
It is the people who have suffered the biggest impact of the unholy nexus between politicians and the army.
It is time to put an end to such self-ruination.

To do that the army must first accept that it has lost its ways and values. It should admit that it is staffed with political activists in military uniform.
The army should admit that this country is where it is now because of its unprofessional activities.
We need a drastic culture change in the whole army.

There must be a willingness to remain in the barracks. It must keep politicians at arms’ length on the understanding that it doesn’t serve them but the interests of the country and its people.
It must work to regain the people’s trust.
Those who don’t share this paradigm shift should be pruned from the army.

In the same vein politicians should keep their paws off the army.
They should know that power comes from the ballot, not the bullet.

As a country we should frown on politicians who use the military to undermine the will of the people.
Only when politicians and soldiers know their rightful place will we have lasting peace in Lesotho.

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