SADC deployment infuriates opposition

SADC deployment infuriates opposition

MASERU – LESOTHO’S main opposition parties this week lambasted SADC for deploying troops to oversee key security sector reforms in the country. The parties argued that the SADC-driven judiciary, security, parliamentary and civil service reforms will not require the presence of foreign troops in Lesotho.

The opposition has now threatened to take legal action against the deployment of the SADC troops.
The opposition was responding a few days after SADC Director of Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Cardoso pleaded with Basotho to see the troops as helpers on a mission to restore the rule of law in the Kingdom.
“Please do not regard us as invaders or intruders,” Cardoso said.

“We are your brothers and sisters from the region willing to share with Basotho the building of a new dawn of stability, peace and prosperity for all,” he said.

Cardoso’s plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears with the opposition spitting fire over the deployment.
“There are no SADC troops in the country,” Democratic Congress (DC) spokesman, Serialong Qoo said on Tuesday.
He said the troops that were in the country “had been sent to Lesotho by friends of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane”.

He said the Zambian soldiers who arrived in Lesotho last week “sneaked into the country through Tele border post without a formal introduction”.
“We only knew those soldiers were from Zambia after we saw the flags from their vehicles. We don’t even know what they are going to do, hopefully they will leave soon,” he said.

The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) Secretary General, Bokang Ramatšella, said he does not understand why the SADC troops are in Lesotho.
“Currently there is no resistance from the Lesotho army and therefore there is no need for the foreign troops in our country,” Ramatšella said.
He said while there was talk that there would be resistance, former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) boss Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and Major Pitso Ramoepana and others had humbly subjected themselves to the police.

“They were suspected to be dangerous officers of the Lesotho Defence Force and it was believed that there would be bloodshed when they were arrested but nothing like that happened and therefore there is no need for armies of foreigners to be assigned to Lesotho,” he said.
“The government has to agree that there is no internal war that warrants the invitation of SADC armies. Nobody is taking arms against anybody,” he said.

He said SADC had veered off its initial goal of ensuring regional economic cooperation and peace and “instead wastes time and resources on non-issues”. “SADC is now disorganised. They issued a statement where they said they would not deploy SADC troops in Lesotho until further notice but a week did not even pass when we heard that so-called SADC troops are in the country,” he said.

“We are taking the SADC statement of not sending the troops until further notice so these soldiers from Zambia are just visitors we don’t even know what they are going to do in the country except increasing prostitution, poverty and burden on the countries’ economy,” he said.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) spokesman Teboho Sekata said the SADC-recommended reforms on judiciary, security, parliamentary and others do not require the presence of foreign troops in the country.
“These are just Thabane’s friends nothing more,” Sekata said.

However, both Sekata and Ramatšella could not produce a statement in which SADC said it was no longer sending troops to Lesotho.
“We are preparing to take legal action against the government upon the arrival of those soldiers as we opposed the SADC troops’ deployment because we didn’t see the necessity of the SADC military help,” he said.

However, speaking on Saturday, Cardoso said the SADC Preventive Mission is meant to restore peace and security, implement security sector reforms and implement the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry and also undertake the re-training of the LDF especially in the area of civil-military relations.

He also said they are going to monitor and ensure that the rule of law is complied with in the process of implementing the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry. They will also identify immediate areas of priority that are to be implemented urgently, including the specific amendments in the constitution, and amendments of the LDF and LMPS Acts with a view to ensuring separation of powers between the army and police.

Cardoso said they are going to monitor and assist where necessary in the investigation of the assassination of Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo and other murders. “We are going to lend assistance in the implementation of constitutional, public and security sector reforms and monitor the implementation of SADC decisions,” he added.

“I wish to underscore that SAPMIL is not here to take over or replace the Lesotho Defence Force or other security institutions of Lesotho,” he said.
“It is here to support and complement the efforts of the oversight committee and assist the government of Lesotho in its quest to attain lasting peace in the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki said the SADC troops’ presence in Lesotho “bears witness to yet another historic and firm resolve by SADC to support the Kingdom of Lesotho in her quest to institute reforms aimed at achieving lasting political and security stability, necessary for economic development and the general well-being of Basotho”.

Nkheli Liphoto and Senate Sekotlo

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