THE government of Namibia has approved the deployment of 250 soldiers to Lesotho as part of a 1 200-strong Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force scheduled to be in the country by 1 November 2017.
According to Namibian media reports, the country had acquiesced to a request by SADC for member states to provide military and diplomatic support to the standby force.
The development comes as the Lesotho government is still seeking answers from SADC after the bloc's defence chiefs earlier this month decided to dispatch a third security assessment mission to Lesotho.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi, will today travel to Luanda, Angola to meet the new Ministerial Double Troika chairperson and Foreign Affairs minister of that country to deliberate on the findings of a 40-member SADC technical assessment team that was in Lesotho between 24 and 28 September 2017 and to discuss the security chiefs' recommendation.
The Defence Sub Committee comprises of army commanders from all of SADC's 14 member states. It met earlier this month in Luanda to deliberate on the findings of the SADC technical assessment team. The team had been dispatched by a 15 September SADC Double Troika Summit to assess the security situation in Lesotho after the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
The summit also approved Lesotho's request for a standby force consisting of military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF in managing the security crisis in the country in the aftermath of the assassination and during the implementation of security sector reforms recommended by the regional body. According to an agreement between SADC and Lesotho, the standby force would consist of 1 099 troops, 30 civilians, 34 police officers, one pathologist, four scuba divers and a police mobile unit.
However, SADC later notified the government that a third mission was coming to Lesotho. Mr Makgothi last week went to the SADC headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana to hand over to the bloc's Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, the agreement to deploy the standby force. Dubbed Status of Force Agreement, the document had already been signed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, although Dr Tax was yet to append her signature.
Although SADC is now unlikely to follow through with dispatching a third mission, since it was due to be in the country by yesterday, the government of Lesotho is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring the standby force is in the country by 1 November 2017.
Mr Makgothi said he wanted to get to the bottom of the recommendation to send a third security assessment mission to Lesotho.
"I intend to engage the Ministerial Double Troika chairperson to establish the reasons for that recommendation," he said.
"If there is any merit to the recommendation, then the Ministerial Double Troika chairperson would have to liaise with the chairperson of SADC to decide whether to convene another Double Troika Summit or to continue with the decision to deploy."