We need an apolitical army

We need an apolitical army

IT was of course with good reasons that political analysts had concluded that Lesotho’s army had over the years posed the greatest threat to the country’s stability. The general perception was that the army had slowly morphed into a lawless entity that refused to subject itself to civilian rule.
Critics accused the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) under ousted commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli of perpetrating serious human rights violations and carrying out extra-judicial killings.

They also accused the army of meddling in the political arena.
The result was that the army’s reputation took a major knock. Instead of being seen as a people’s army, the LDF was now seen as the enemy.
Yet, last week’s change of command within the LDF presents the army with a fresh opportunity to lay to rest the demons of its past and chart a new path.
That violent past, which has its roots in Lesotho’s turbulent political crisis, must be completely exorcised.
We note that Lt Gen Mojalefa Letsoela has pledged to professionalise the army and subject it under civilian authorities. That is well and good.
Yet much more will be needed to ensure that no politician, in the current government or in any future government, captures this key national institution to advance their nefarious political agenda.

That is why it is absolutely critical for our political leadership, across the divide, to ensure the SADC-led reforms succeed at all costs.
The security sector reforms, which we believe are the most important of the reforms, will determine whether Lesotho has peace or plunges yet again into another cycle of violence and instability.

Lesotho needs an apolitical army that is not at the beck and call of wayward politicians.
The loyalty of the army must be to the State and not a political party or leader.

Of course, for decades our politicians have abused the army for their own partisan agendas. That too must stop.
Our army must stay in the barracks and not meddle in deciding who stays at State House.
Its loyalty must only be to the State to allow our young democracy to thrive.

Only when the security of the State is being threatened should our army spring into action.
The politicians must play their ‘games’ without dragging the army to decide the outcome of their battles.
The SADC security sector reforms must therefore specifically spell out the roles of the army in a democratic society.

The reforms must clearly spell out what is a lawful order and what is an unlawful order that can be resisted without soldiers worrying that they will be dragged before a military tribunal. Only a clear reform agenda, pursued doggedly by all key political players in Lesotho, will be able to determine the best way for Lesotho.

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