Maseru - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has deployed a standby force to Lesotho to avert any coup attempt and forestall any further trouble in the unstable kingdom after this week’s assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Khoantle Motsomotso.
The force is drawn from South Africa, Angola and Mozambique.
Members of the SANDF are already in Lesotho having started arriving on Wednesday while more reinforcements were expected on Thursday and Friday.
Lesotho’s Defence and National Security Minister Sentje Lebona confirmed the deployment of the SADC force but declined to disclose the size of the force nor details of its material wherewithal.
There was nevertheless no joy in getting comment from the South African side with Defence Minister Nosiziwa Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokeswoman Joy Peter referring all questions to SANDF spokesman Xolani Mabanga who promised to revert back to us but never did so.
Minister Lebona nonetheless said the standby force would ensure stability in Lesotho while also providing security during the implementation of a raft of reforms recommended by SADC to try and end perennial political instability in Lesotho.
SADC has also deployed into Lesotho four ministers from the SADC Ministerial Double Troika and a fact-finding mission consisting of defence and security chiefs to deal with the latest round of instability in that country.
Motsomotso was shot dead at his offices at Ratjomose barracks, outside Maseru, on Tuesday morning by two of his senior officers, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
Sechele and Hashatsi were in turn killed by Motsomotso’s bodyguards who responded after hearing gunshots.
The Lesotho government has since explained that Motsomotso was shot by Sechele after the two had asked the LDF commander to halt ongoing police investigations into various atrocities committed by members of the LDF during the previous tenure of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who was ousted by new Premier Thomas Thabane in elections held on June 3, 2017.
Motsomotso had turned down his two senior officer’s request saying the investigations were part of recommendations by SADC to hold LDF members responsible for past atrocities accountable.
Both Hashatsi and Sechele had worked closely with ousted former LDF commander Tlali Kamoli in perpetrating atrocities in Lesotho during the previous regime of former premier Mosisili.
Motsomotso had served as Kamoli’s deputy during the latter’s reign of terror under Mosisili but was elevated to become LDF commander after Kamoli was ousted in December 2016 owing to pressure from SADC and America for his removal.
The United States had threatened to boot Lesotho out of Agoa unless Kamoli was removed as recommended earlier by a SADC commission of inquiry.
When Prime Minister Thabane assumed the reigns, Motsomotso made a U-turn and jettisoned his colleagues with whom he had committed atrocities. He started cooperating with new Prime Minister Thabane and implementing all the latter’s orders.
This seems to have irked other senior officers who had expected Motsomotso to destabilise Thabane’s government resulting in this week’s incident.
It has since emerged that Sechele and Hashatsi had planned to stage a coup if they had survived after killing Motsomotso. Police found on Sechele a statement he had planned to read to the nation announcing the army’s takeover if the coup had succeeded.
“The army will be in power for not more than five years in order to implement the reforms that the politicians have failed to do on their own,” part of the statement read.
“We assure the nation that its property and state of security are in good hands.”
Lesotho’s army is at the centre of instability in that impoverished country. Its attempt to stage a coup on August 30, 2014 sparked a series of events that have fostered more instability since then.
Independent Foreign Service