Likoti lashes at SADC standby force

Likoti lashes at SADC standby force

MASERU – A Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force deployed to stabilise Lesotho has become a source of consternation, with the opposition claiming the move is aimed at propping up the ruling party at the expense of its rivals.
SADC has deployed 258 personnel comprising 207 soldiers, 12 civilians, 15 intelligence officers, and 24 police officers to “stabilize Lesotho” following the assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Khoantle Motšomotšo in September.
The opposition has described the deployment as “unnecessary”.

“Our view as the opposition is clear. They are here to oppress and ridicule Basotho in their country,” Dr Fako Likoti, a former political adviser to Pakalitha Mosisili, said. “They are here to ensure that a peaceful, inclusive and multiple stakeholders’ reform process does not take place in a peaceful environment where all stakeholders are free to participate.”

Mosisili is the former prime minister who lost power after elections held on June 3.
Likoti, a former political science lecturer with strong leanings towards the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party, said the SADC forces are in the country to “reinforce the government’s authoritarian tendencies against the entire opposition parties in the country”.
He claimed that seven people had died at the hands of the police in the past six months alone.

According to Likoti the SADC contingent force “is here to force Basotho to conduct national reforms at gun point”.
He suggested that it would have been more helpful if SADC had deployed conflict management experts to bridge the gap between the government and the opposition.

Likoti questioned SADC’s decision to send troops to Lesotho while not doing the same in conflict ravaged countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo where the postponement of elections has resulted in the escalation of conflict. He also cited Mozambique, where the rebel Renamo group appears to be resurgent and Zimbabwe, where an army coup led to the ouster of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, as countries in dire need of SADC intervention ahead of Lesotho. Reforms in Lesotho, he said, should be led by local actors, adding that recent events that have resulted in the arrest of some alleged rogue soldiers showed that Lesotho could deal with its own problems.

He maintained that SADC was called by the current government to deal with possible resistance by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in the implementation of the Phumaphi recommendations, particularly the possibility of military personnel resisting arrest.
The killing of the Commander of the LDF Lt Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo and his senior military officers further justified military interventions.
However the situation in Lesotho has stabilised, he said.

“A former LDF commander is in prison and has been denied bail. Many soldiers have been arrested without any resistance,” Likoti said.
The Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, Col Tanki Mothae, who is also a former director of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation said the regional body’s troops were in Lesotho at the invitation of the government.

Mothae said Lesotho initially requested the assistance of SADC in forming a commission of inquiry into the death of Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015.
While the current government was in the process of undertaking reforms, Lt. Gen Motšomotšo was killed.
“In any given country in the world the death of the commander shakes the ground,” Mothae said.

Mothae said following the death of the army commander, government realised the need to invite SADC to assist with a stand-by force while reforms take place. Mothae said SADC forces “are not here to work by force but to manage security issues and political challenges”.
“There are also legal experts who will be assisting in the constitutional and judicial reforms,” Mothae said.

Staff Reporter

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