Talks over Kamoli exit

Talks over Kamoli exit

Staff Reporter

MASERU

THE government will soon engage in talks with army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli to discuss what Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili calls a “mutually agreeable solution”.

The decision comes as pressure mounts on the coalition government to remove Lieutenant General Kamoli as recommended by the SADC Commission.

The SADC Double Troika Summit is expected to demand progress on the commander’s removal when it meets in Botswana next week.

The regional body has already asked the government to submit a progress report on the implementation of the SADC Commission’s recommendations ahead of the summit.

In his statement to parliament this week Mosisili made it clear the government did not agree with the recommendation that the commander be relieved of his duties.

He called him a “competent, dedicated and loyal officer whose credentials are unquestionable”.

Mosisili however said despite the government’s trust in the General the government has heard the “agitations” and “hysteria” around his position as commander.

“Be that as it may, government has heard the national and international agitations and hysteria, fuelled by a very strong negative perception that has been created around General Kamoli,” Mosisili said.

“In the light of this, government has decided to engage General Kamoli on a mutually agreeable solution; and a definitive statement will be made in good time, following due process in this regard.”

The nature of the deal likely to be offered to Lieutenant General Kamoli is not clear but two senior government sources told thepost last night that dismissal is out of question”.

One source said what is under consideration is a “soft landing” that will not embarrass the commander.  Another speculated that Lieutenant General Kamoli could be enticed with diplomatic posting and a senior government position.

Both sources were however emphatic that the talks are being held on Lieutenant General Kamoli’s terms because there is no transgression that can justify his removal without triggering a legal fight is likely to lose.

In its reports the SADC Commission said “The general discontent of some Basotho with the Commander of LDF, Lieutenant General Kamoli and the conduct of the LDF under his command is disconcerting”.

“In the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation, it is strongly recommended that Lieutenant General Kamoli be relieved of his duties as Commander LDF, and all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason be suspended while investigations in their cases proceed in line with international best practice,” the commission said.

Since then the government has come under incessant pressure, both locally and international, to remove him.

The strongest pressure is said to be coming from SADC and the United States government. The United States government had made tacit threats to cancel aid and other trade concessions to Lesotho.

Yet during his statement in parliament Mosisili was adamant in his support for the general.

He said the recommendation to remove the commander is “by far the most contentious and problematic of all the recommendations”.

“First, and as indicated earlier in this statement, the reasons advanced to motivate this recommendation are highly controversial and most unconvincing. Many of them are plain untruths,” he said.

“In other words, in the opinion of Government, this really is a very big recommendation based on or chasing very little empirical evidence.”

The government, he said, “is convinced that, in spite of the fervent and highly spirited campaign to demonize and tarnish his image, General Kamoli remains a competent, dedicated and loyal officer whose credentials are unquestionable.”

So it is not obvious to us that removing him is actually in the best interest of our country,” he said.

“Second, General Kamoli is only part of the general command of the LDF, albeit its head. He is not the LDF. Government deeply doubts the thinking that the removal of one person will have the effect of curing all the alleged ills of the LDF, or of assuaging the general discontent of those faceless Basotho.”

“This is why Government would much prefer a security reform as opposed to a once-off approach that targets an individual.”

The prime minister also sought to defend his decision to reappoint Lieutenant General Kamoli. In doing so he tried to poke holes into to the commission’s finding that former Prime Minister Thabane had the constitutional right to fire the commander.

The commission said the reappointment if Lieutenant General Kamoli was legal but “inappropriate”.

This attitude, the prime minister said, misses the point that in coalition government consultation is an inalienable condition.

“With respect, I submit here that constitutional power cannot be divorced from political power in parliament.” He said it was “precisely this arrogance that spelled the collapse of the Thabane-led coalition government”.

“Second, the procedure that Prime Minister Thabane applied was not only most unfair but legally flawed ab initio (from the beginning) in that he did not give General Kamoli a hearing in line with the audi alteram partem principle. How the Commission missed such a glaring omission is beyond comprehension!”

Mosisili said “although Thabane purported to have dismissed the General, he continued to pay his salary until the General was sent on a leave of absence in the arrangement brokered by the SADC Facilitator, His Excellency Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, much later!”

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