Reforms must now take off

Reforms must now take off

A 1 200-strong SADC standby force is expected in Lesotho this week to oversee key reforms.
This is in line with a SADC resolution to send a force to help during the reform process.
The presence of the force will likely give the government of Lesotho the much needed boost to enforce the reforms.
Given our history marked by conflict, it would be extremely naïve to argue that Lesotho does not need the SADC standby army.

Our history, which has been marked by bitter conflict, proves we need external help to stabilise the country.
In its motivation for a standby force, the government of Lesotho had expressed real fears that it could encounter resistance from certain quarters during the implementation of the reforms.

This is why it is important to allow the SADC standby force to work unimpeded.
The presence of dark forces that are out to sabotage the reforms should never be discounted.
The SADC force will therefore provide the necessary insurance against forces opposed to peace.
The SADC standby force is not an invading force. It is not a hostile army threatening Lesotho’s sovereignty.

The presence of a thousand boots on the ground should not be seen as a threat to our sovereignty.
This is an army that has been put together by our neighbours to help stabilise Lesotho.
By sending the soldiers, we would like to believe our neighbours within SADC mean no harm to us. We also hope these soldiers are coming with good intentions — to help douse flames in their neighbour’s house.

It is extremely necessary for Lesotho to undertake the reforms with a sense of urgency.
The slight irritation of a foreign force on Lesotho’s soil should be a small price to pay to ensure lasting peace.
On the basis of the foregoing, it is crucial that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) plays its part by cooperating fully with the reform process.
The army will need to subject itself to civilian authority.

If it does so, that will go a long way in shedding the tag that it is an antagonistic force that is out to cause trouble. We believe the security sector reforms will provide the sternest test to the government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. The army must therefore play ball to ensure the reforms succeed. At the same time, the government of Lesotho must not see the presence of the SADC troops as a licence to go hard on political opponents under the cover of SADC.

The government must keep its eyes on the ball and not allow itself to be sidetracked by non-issues.
It must not take advantage of the presence of the SADC troops to go on a vindictive pursuit of political opponents with no regard for due process.
The whole idea of the reforms is to ensure that Lesotho is stable politically.
Both the government and the opposition must therefore seize this moment to chart the best way for Lesotho.
It would be tragic if we were to squander this golden opportunity

l Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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