SADC to send 'contingent force' to troubled Lesotho
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Pretoria - The deployment of a contingent force, which will include military and intelligence military forces, to the volatile Kingdom of Lesotho was approved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government in Pretoria on Friday.
"Summit approved the deployment of a contingent force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to support the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and directed the chiefs of defence and security to assess the requirements, to determine the appropriate size of the contingent force, and to prepare the modalities for the deployment," SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax read out the communique at the end of the Double Troika Summit in Pretoria.
She said the summit had "strongly condemned" the brutal assassination of Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt-General Khoantle Motsomotso which happened earlier this month, prompting the SADC meeting to contain the degeneration situation in Maseru.
"The Right Honourable Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho was also invited. The Double Troika Summit was also attended by SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa," said Tax.
In a question and answer session, South Africa's Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insisted that the SADC intervention approved on Friday was different from a military deployment.
“We need to understand what the deployment is going to be … for now it’s going to be support for the oversight committee. It is a contingency force. We are politicians, we want chiefs of defence to assess the situation and advise us. This is a directive to the chiefs of defence, the region will come together and discuss this matter again. We don’t need to cause unnecessary panic with everybody saying they have already committed to deploy [soldiers], some going to parliament to say this and that. The issue is that a directive has been issued and we will then be directed by the chiefs of staff,” she said.
Earlier, South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC appealed to the authorities and the populace of the Kingdom of Lesotho to collectively work tirelessly to bring peace and stability to the mountain kingdom which has been on the regional bloc’s agenda for a considerable period.
“As SADC, we cannot and shall not be in Lesotho forever. We desire to have Lesotho off the SADC agenda soonest,” Zuma addressed a Double Troika of Heads of State and Government.
“It is unfortunate and regrettable that as we gather here this afternoon that the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt-General Motsomotso, who was with us here in this very building three weeks ago during the SADC Summit, tragically lost his life in a senseless killing.”
Zuma said the assassination of Motsomotso typifies a dangerous pattern of targeted killings in the geographically small African nation.
Motsomotso was killed earlier this month, while two senior officers who were allegedly responsible for the murder, were also killed in a shoot-out at a barracks in Lesotho’s capital Maseru.
Eyewitnesses said the officers burst into the army chief’s office and shot him, before being killed by guards.