24 November 2017

Southern Africa: SADC Deployment Should Not Be Delayed Anymore

ELSEWHERE in this edition, we carry a report by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) about the missing arms of war from the armouries of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

The report should dispatch cold chills down the spines of every peace loving Mosotho. How can any modern civilized country live without accounting for all its dangerous weapons of war.

This and another revelation that there are still rogue soldiers in the LDF who could foment chaos and instability all vindicate our calls for the steadfast deployment of the much-awaited SADC standby force. This deployment, which has been delayed umpteen times, is now long overdue. It cannot be delayed any more.

As per our lead report, SADC warns that missing arms of war could be used by rogue soldiers to launch reprisal attacks as efforts to hold them accountable for past transgressions intensify, raising the specter of heightened instability in Lesotho.

The confidential report essentially assists SADC in assessing the risk levels in the country ahead of the deployment. Its contents are nevertheless extremely frightening.

The report makes it categorically clear that arms of war and ammunition are missing from the LDF armory. Heavy AK47 rifles disappeared from lawful custody at the LCS. Obviously missing are the arms confiscated by the LDF from the LMPS during Tlali Kennedy Kamoli's irresponsible coup attempt on 30 August 2014 when the army, under his direction, launched an onslaught and seized arms from police stations around Maseru.

It is in complete order to suspect that all these arms are in the possession of rogue elements of the LDF who might want to use them to launch reprisal attacks as efforts to rein them intensify.

"Currently, the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho is relatively calm," reads part of the report.

"This notwithstanding, the likelihood of reprisal attacks and other acts of instability cannot be ruled out given the residual tensions and deep rooted mistrust amongst politicians and divisions among the security establishments specifically (in) the LDF."

Lesotho cannot afford to pay scant attention to this report. There is no nation that should exist without knowing where its dangerous arms of war are located. Kamoli must tell Basotho where he put the arms that the army, under his command and direction, seized from the police. He must also be held accountable for all the missing arms in the LDF armoury.

This rot calls for a proper and very thorough investigation to establish the facts. Imagine the magnitude of the risk of having rogues having access to such high caliber dangerous weapons.

If ever there was an issue that needed urgent attention, it is this one. A proper commission of inquiry to probe and determine where these weapons are hidden is in order.

This issue also justifies why we need SADC intervention yesterday. Once the regional body's troops are deployed attention and resources must be focused on searching for these missing weapons. Unless they are found and put under legal state custody it means Lesotho will forever remain as a nation on the cusp of war.

SADC is absolutely right in its suspicions that these weapons have been stolen and hidden by rogues with evil intentions. Against this backdrop, it is totally incomprehensible why any peace loving Basotho would oppose the deployment of the SADC troops.

Former Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, is opposed to the deployment of the SADC standby force. While it's understandable for a politician like Dr Mosisili to make self-serving statements against SADC's deployment of troops in a perennially unstable member state, it is wholly irresponsible for non-governmental organisations - who should know better - to side with such irresponsible calls.

These troops are badly needed to secure the country's stability. We must all welcome them with open arms.

Lesotho

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