The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has commended its two month old Standby Force for its efforts in fostering a conducive environment for the implementation of multi-sectoral reforms required to foster long term peace and stability in Lesotho.
A high-powered SADC delegation that includes SADC Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has been in the country since Sunday to assess the progress of the Standby Force which is also known as the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL). The delegation will depart the country tomorrow after site visits to the areas of deployment.
Other members of the delegation are Zambia's Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Ambassador Chalwe Lombe, Zambia's Police Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja, Ambassador Innocent Eugene Shiyo of Tanzania and South African Police Service's Major General Charl Annandale.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru this week, SADC Oversight Committee Chairperson Matias Bertino Matondo said there were clear indicators that SAPMIL was well on course to fulfilling its mandate of creating a conducive atmosphere for the implementation of all-inclusive multi-sectoral reforms in the country.
Zambia's Brigadier General Michael Mukokomani who is a member of SAPMIL and Angola's Lieutenant General Americo Jose Volente who is the head of the SADC Standby Force, joined the delegation at the press conference.
Dr Matondo said the prevailing peace and stability in the country was one of the indicators that SAPMIL had so far succeeded in deterring rogue military elements that were capable of fomenting chaos.
He said other indicators included SAPMIL's success in commencing negotiations with civil society organisations as well as self-exiled opposition leaders. The leaders have so far thrown spanners into the reform process by refusing to return home to participate in it.
"The first and most important indicator is the fact that there is peace and stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho," Dr Matondo said, adding, "The fact that there is peace and stability in the country demonstrates by itself that SAMPIL is here for a reason".
"We have also been engaging the leaders in exile and also the CSOs. The civilian component of SAPMIL has been playing its role to make sure that all the grey areas among all Basotho stakeholders are addressed and as we speak, some CSOs that could not talk to each other a couple of weeks ago are now talking."
Dr Matondo said SAPMIL was also participating in the investigations into the assassinations of army commanders Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Khoantle Motšomotšo in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
He also said that SAPMIL had also begun fulfilling its mandate of providing training and capacity building to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to fully equip the police with skills to enable them to effectively resolve crimes.
"One of the main objectives of SADC is training and capacity building.
"Right now our colleagues from the SAPMIL police component are training their LMPS counterparts in the forensic techniques they need to deal with crime scene evidence," Dr Matondo said.
The visit comes on the heels of a similar mission by the African Union (AU) Technical Assessment Mission which toured the country a fortnight ago.
The AU team also expressed satisfaction with the work of SAPMIL, saying it had helped to restore peace in Lesotho and improved the working relations among the various security agencies.
And this week, Dr Tax said she had come to Lesotho "after the AU mission because this (peace) process is not only about SADC".
She said, the regional body requested AU's support for the SADC mission in Lesotho.
"They (AU) accepted our proposal and they were here at our request to help us. They were very impressed with the progress but there is also a need to continue supporting the Kingdom of Lesotho.
"The M20 million that we requested is still under negotiations because you cannot request and get resources immediately. We have to negotiate and we will see what the results will be at the end of the day," Dr Tax said.
This was in reference to SADC's appeal to AU member states, the United Nations and development partners to offer technical and financial support to SAPMIL to enable it to meet its budget shortfall of US$1, 6 million (approximately M20 million).