America’s Ambassador to Lesotho, Matthew Harrington, says his government is concerned that no one has been held accountable for the 30 August 2014 political unrest and violence between the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
A senior LMPS officer, Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko, was shot dead when LDF members stormed Police Headquarters on the day in question in what the army said was a special operation. The LDF also attacked Maseru Central Police Station and Mabote Police Station on the same morning, with then Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, calling the assaults an attempted coup. Dr Thabane accused Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, whom he had fired the previous day as LDF commander, of allegedly orchestrating the botched putsch.
Speaking during a roundtable discussion with journalists in Maseru yesterday, Ambassador Harrington not only expressed concern that no one had been arrested in connection with the simultaneous attacks on the three key police stations, but also that the Lesotho government had decided to reinstate Lt Gen Kamoli.
Lt Gen Kamoli was reinstated on Friday last week and the American government says this was “a missed opportunity to set an example and not reinstate one of the most polarising figures from that difficult period, as commander of the Lesotho Defence Force”.
Ambassador Harrington continued: “We have concerns on security developments in the country; these are issues that should be accounted for as they would be considered by December when the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board reassesses the eligibility of Lesotho for a second compact as this is evaluated annually.
“There should be accountability regarding the 30 August 2014 incidents as certain facts are not in dispute. Lt Gen Kamoli was dismissed and there was a raid on police stations. During the raid, a police officer died and there has not been any arrest.
“Lt Gen Kamoli is reinstated and there is no punishment for the 30 August incidents. These are incidents that took place while he was still in charge of the LDF. This all sends a message that the country is going backwards and not forward.”
The Ambassador also noted other “recent troubling developments” in Lesotho, among them alleged kidnappings and abuse within the LDF, the murder of prominent All Basotho Convention supporter and businessman Thabiso Tšosane, and failure to provide security for former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Dr Thabane fled the country last week and has sought refuge in South Africa, saying he fears for his life back home.
Ambassador Harrington further said the Embassy had learnt that the abducted soldiers were being brought to the High Court heavily guarded by soldiers wearing balaclava hats covering the LDF members’ faces. The Ambassador also expressed concern at the intimidation of lawyers by the soldiers at the High Court, as they bring their arrested colleagues.
“It seems like the LDF is doing as it pleases. We would like to see government’s commitment to the depoliticisation of its security agencies. The fact that the former Prime Minister has not been provided with security in line with the laws of Lesotho is also a worrying matter that needs to be addressed by the government.”
He also stressed the need for government, either through the Minister of Defence and National Security or the Prime Minister, to address the general public about what was going on in the country
“Basotho need to hear what is going on from their leadership. The government of Lesotho should also take a hard look at past incidents and the family of the slain police officer should get the justice it deserves. It should be known who ordered the LDF to raid those police stations.
“The government, I believe, should look at its own Coalition Agreement for guidance on the security sector reforms that it pledged to undertake. On the other hand, we are prepared to assist the government of Lesotho in these much-needed reforms,” said Ambassador Harrington.
However, the Ambassador emphasised that his reference on Lt Gen Kamoli should not be mistaken as taking sides in local issues.
“Any Sovereign State has a right to appoint people into office but here, the government of Lesotho, missed an opportunity to set an example,” he said.
Ambassador Harrington also emphasised the need for Lesotho to “speedily” undertake institutional and constitutional reforms and ensure the country “does not fall back into an abyss of political and security instability”.