Lesotho blocks SADC mission

Lesotho blocks SADC mission

MASERU – SADC has balked to pressure from the Lesotho government to block an attempt to send a third security assessment team before the deployment of a regionally-backed standby force. Last week Lesotho strongly rejected attempts by a SADC Defence Sub-committee to send another team to assess the security situation.

The subcommittee announced the third assessment after receiving the report of the SADC Double Troika-sanctioned Technical Assessment Mission (TAM) during a two-day meeting in Angola on October 4. The TAM was in Lesotho from September 24 to 28 to assess the size of a force that can be deployed as requested by the government.

The Lesotho government was unhappy that the sub-committee made the decision without approval from the SADC Double Troika.
The mission was supposed to have arrived in the country yesterday but Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi said it had been aborted after vehement protests from Lesotho.

Makgothi said Lesotho stood firm in its position that there was no need for a further assessment mission and the that deployment of a 1 200-strong force recommended by TAM should go ahead on November 1 as planned. Lesotho had initially asked for a battalion of 400.

Last week Makgothi hurried to Botswana to register Lesotho’s disappointment at the proposed third mission which the Lesotho government said had not been sanctioned by the SADC Double Troika. He said he told senior SADC officials that Lesotho will not open its doors to another assessment.
“I cannot be specific on which SADC officials I met in Botswana but we made our position on the third assessment clear,” Makgothi said.
Today Makgothi will travel to Angola to get a full report from the chairperson of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on how the subcommittee had reached its decision to send another team.

Makgothi told thepost that Lesotho’s protest was based on “procedure and the urgency of the situation in the country”.
The Defence Sub-Committee, he said, is a very low committee that has no power to overturn the decision of the SADC Double Troika.
Its decision in Angola sidestepped four other crucial stages in the SADC structures, he said.
“That is not how things are supposed to be done.”

“The sub-committee does not have the power to send another assessment team to Lesotho. That is the business of the SADC Double Troika”.
Makgothi said before such a decision is made it should have gone through the SADC Security Chiefs who were supposed to escalate it to the Ministerial Committee of the Organ.

From there it should have gone to the chairperson of the Organ Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation who would in turn discuss it with the chairperson of the SADC.

“They can then say let’s take it back to the SADC Double Troika for further discussions before a decision is made.”
“But what has happened here is that the subcommittee has made a decision that is procedurally supposed to have been made by the SADC Double Troika. That is why we are not comfortable with it.”

Makgothi’s shuttle diplomacy is meant to ensure that the standby force arrives in the country as scheduled. The force will consists of 1099 soldiers, 30 civilians, 33 police officers, four scuba divers and one pathologist.

A police mobile unit of 37 officers will be part of the mission. The TAM recommended police officers and a pathologist because it wanted them to assist in investigating the murder of army commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motsomotso on September 5.

The team will also retrain LDF soldiers and create a special team of soldiers who will be used for peacekeeping.
Makgothi said the government suspects the Defence Sub-Committee’s decision could have been influenced, in part, by a report from the opposition which said Lesotho does not need a mobile police unit.

He said Lesotho is worried that another assessment team would delay the implementation of the reforms.
SADC, he said, had given Lesotho a November 30 deadline to have come up with a roadmap on the reforms as well as a progress report on the implementation of SADC’s recommendations and decisions.

And by that time Lesotho is expected to have also held a Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue on the reforms.
“We don’t know how long that third assessment will take yet we have a tight deadline from SADC,” Makgothi said.
“We don’t want to miss that deadline because a subcommittee has decided to overturn a decision of the whole SADC.”
The minister said he did not see why the deployment should not happen because SADC had already made a decision and a budget had already been approved.

Last Thursday Prime Minister Thomas Thabane signed a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) that stipulates the size of the force, tenure, protocols and treaties to be followed as well as the Rules of Engagement (ROE). “As far as we are concerned the deployment is supposed to go ahead as planned,” Makgothi said.

Staff Reporter

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