Botswana won’t send troops

Botswana won’t send troops

MASERU – BOTSWANA is not contributing soldiers to a drastically reduced SADC standby force that will arrive in Lesotho on November 20.
On Sunday Botswana’s Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, said her government had told SADC that it will not be contributing soldiers to the force.

“We presented our position during the Summit and there was no opposition from the floor, nor was there a resolution to send troops. We have said that we cannot send troops,” Venson-Moitoi said.
She said Botswana believes the situation in Lesotho does not warrant military intervention.
“Sending peacekeeping troops means there is turmoil, but we believe that Basotho can still resolve their differences without involvement of the military. All they need is time.”

“We cannot afford to do that (sending troops) at this point in time. We have two people who are in oversight committees and that was our position at the last Heads of State Summit was to increase manpower for oversight committees,” Venson-Moitoi said.
South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland and Angola have agreed to contribute soldiers to the force.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi said there was nothing surprising with Botswana’s decision.
He said although he was yet to speak to Venson-Moitoi he did not think there was any need to be alarmed. Botswana, Makgothi said, was not under any obligation to send soldiers to Lesotho.

That Lesotho is not contributing soldiers will not derail the deployment of the force, he said.
The force has been trimmed from 1 200 to around 370 people, according to Communications Minister Joang Molapo.
He said this is in line with Lesotho’s initial request of a force of between 300 and 400 soldiers.

Molapo said proportionally the personnel composition of the standby force has not “deviated much” from what SADC had initially approved.
The majority of the about 300 people will be soldiers while the rest will be police officers, intelligence officers and civilians.
Molapo said the reduced force should not be construed to be an indication that SADC is not committed to helping Lesotho during the reform process.
Instead, he said, it is a sign that the regional bloc is ready to act should there be any security problem in Lesotho.

Molapo said it was “clear that a force of 1000-odd soldiers would be a huge financial burden for SADC”.
“The SADC force is large enough to deal with any situation that may arise. The force that is coming is enough to play its monitoring role without creating a financial burden for SADC,” Molapo said.

“SADC has been clear to us that there will be ample reinforcements if there is any situation that requires a large group. There is that strong commitment”. “The pledge for a rapid deployment of reinforcement if a situation arises remains there.” The minister said the government is happy with the size that will arrive on November 20.

Molapo was cautious when asked if the security risk profile had reduced since the murder of Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo in September.
“The situation in Lesotho has always been volatile but that does not mean there are situations that we cannot manage on our own,” he said.
“Of course after the unfortunate incident the situation was tense and volatile. The standby force will be here to monitor the security situation and help train the army.”

Staff Reporter

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