SADC standby force delayed

SADC standby force delayed

MASERU – THE deployment of a eSADC standby force in Lesotho has been delayed to allow “certain procedures” to be followed, thepost heard last night. The Ministry of Defence principal secretary Colonel Tanki Mothae told thepost yesterday that they will know by the end of this week when the troops will arrive. SADC decided to send troops to Lesotho following the assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo early in September. The Lesotho government feared that there were serious divisions in the army and more violent conflicts between the factions in the defence force were imminent.

The government also feared that there would be a violent resistance when some senior army officers faced arrest for crimes they are alleged to have committed in the past. A SADC commission of inquiry headed by a Botswana judge, Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi, last year recommended that all soldiers accused of crimes should be handed to the police for prosecution.

There were fears enforcing such recommendations could trigger a backlash from the army. The government says Motšomotšo was killed because he had begun implementing the SADC recommendations. The government was expecting the SADC troops to land in the country yesterday but Mothae said they had been delayed because of some technical issues.

SADC has pledged to send 1 200 troops from Namibia, Swaziland, Angola and Mozambique. “The coming of the force into Lesotho is a process which involves certain procedures that have to be followed,” Mothae said. “We are yet to hear from Botswana (where SADC is headquartered) when this force will be in Lesotho since plans are being carried out in that country,” he said.
Mothae said the coming of the SADC troops in Lesotho also “has legal and financial implications that have to be fulfilled before the forces could be deployed”.

“We have already agreed on the rules of engagement. The proposed deployment of the forces was made by the SADC Technical Assessment Mission which was in Lesotho from September 24 to 28 to assess the size of the force that could be deployed,” he said.
Following the death of Motšomotšo, the Double Troika Summit of the Heads of State and Government of SADC was held in South Africa on September 15, 2017 to agree on what to do to help Lesotho wriggle out of the security crisis.

SADC Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos, immediately sent a Ministerial Fact-Finding Mission to Lesotho to assess the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Motšomotšo.
The Summit approved the deployment of a Contingent Force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to support Lesotho.
The bloc also directed the Chiefs of Defence and Security to assess the requirements, determine the appropriate size of the Contingent Force, and to prepare the modalities for the deployment.

The Summit, after receiving a report of the Ministerial Fact-Finding Mission, noted the volatile security situation and its implications for the political stability of the country. It also noted there was an urgent need to assist Lesotho in restoring law and order, and a peaceful environment conducive to the implementation of SADC decisions specifically, Security Sector and Constitutional Reforms, as well as the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.

Mothae maintained that the standby force will certainly be in Lesotho as this was a decision by the SADC heads of state and governments.
“This is the decision of SADC not the government of Lesotho,” he said. The force will consist of about 1 099 soldiers, 30 civilians, 33 police officers, four scuba divers and one pathologist.

Majara Molupe

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