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A national security issue

by Lesotho Times

Reports by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Thuso Motanyane that the army is facing severe budgetary constraints should come as a real cause for worry to the nation given our tempestuous past.
Speaking at the Army Day celebrations in Maseru at the weekend Lt Gen Motanyane said the LDF had failed to meet some of its vital needs due to these financial constraints.
He said the army had failed to buy new vehicles and uniforms over the past two years.
Training programmes abroad have had to be shelved.
As a result of these challenges the LDF has had to rely on hand-outs from its “friends” abroad.
This by all accounts is not healthy for the army and for Lesotho.
Ordinarily we would not expect the army boss to be divulging such internal problems.
Such issues are best solved internally.
However, the fact that Lt Gen Motanyane went public with such critical issues could indicate that the army’s patience is wearing thin and the army is crying out for solutions — now.
We agree that the army is too strategic a national institution to be made to beg for resources.
In fact we think the welfare of the army is a national security issue.
It is essential that the LDF is fully resourced to be able to perform its duties effectively.
This applies to other national security organs.
When the government fails to look after its own army there is a real possibility that this country could plunge back into its ugly past when rogue officers interfered with the civilian administration of government.
To forestall such a scenario, the government must ensure that the LDF is not made to ask for alms.
It must ensure that the army does not have to rely on handouts from our international friends.
While it is important for every institution to tighten its belt this must not be at the expense of national security.
Lesotho might not be facing any immediate threat from outside at present but it is still important that we maintain our guard against possible aggressors.
Threats to Lesotho’s national security will not only come from outside.
They could come from within.
The events of 1998 should serve as a sad reminder of what can happen when we sacrifice national security in the name of cost-cutting measures.
We should live our lives in the context that threats to our national security are forever a looming possibility.
Only two years ago the relative peace that we had enjoyed was shattered in the early hours of April 9, 2009 when mercenaries breached our security and threatened to assassinate Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Disaster was only averted because we had vigilant officers within the army who fended off the attack by the mercenaries who had breached our defence with the help of rogue officers within the LDF, according to the findings of a commission of enquiry.
These recent attacks show that the threats we face as a nation are real.
It is therefore important that we do not compromise national security in the name of belt-tightening.
A nation that fails to look after its own army invites trouble.
Of course times are hard.
The government of Lesotho is facing severe budgetary constraints as a result of reduced revenue from the Southern African Customs Union.
The reduced revenue has had a devastating impact on key ministries such as defence.
Several other governments, including those in developed countries, have had to shrink their defence budgets.
Perhaps the army bosses might consider coming up with a lean, mean machine to ensure the LDF remains geared to meet up with modern challenges.

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