‘Govt fears Kamoli’s wrath’
…Opposition tells Americans
THE opposition alliance yesterday told American officials that the government was “afraid” to implement the SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendations because they feared the wrath of army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli.
The alliance made the claim during a meeting with United States (US) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Africa and Public Diplomacy Todd Haskell, Ambassador to Lesotho Matthew Harrington, Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Pelletreau and Political Affairs Officer Daniel Kobayashi at the American embassy in Maseru.
During the meeting, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) was represented by Secretary-General Samonyane Ntsekele and Dr Moeketsi Majoro, the Basotho National Party (BNP) by deputy leader Joang Molapo, while the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) was represented by deputy leader Dr Motloheloa Phooko and ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times after the meeting, Dr Phooko said the alliance told the US officials that the government could not implement the recommendations of the Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led Commission of Inquiry as they feared raising the ire of Lt-Gen Kamoli.
SADC commissioned Botswana judge Justice Phumaphi to lead a 10-member team of legal and security experts in probing Lesotho’s security and political challenges following the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015. Lt-Gen Mahao was killed by his army colleagues allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny. The probe was held between 31 August and 23 October 2015.
Among the commission’s recommendations was the dismissal of Lt-Gen Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to the Basotho nation”.
However, members of the seven-party coalition government have since declared that the LDF chief would remain in office until Lesotho goes to the polls in 2020.
Said Dr Phooko: “The US is aware the Lesotho government is unwilling to implement SADC recommendations, hence the continuation of the political and security instability in the country.
“Much like we have said to other international bodies and governments, the opposition told Mr Haskell that the government had not released the soldiers who were arrested for alleged mutiny and are still being detained.”
The LDF arrested 23 soldiers last year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the LDF command. However, seven of the soldiers have since been released from detention and placed under open arrest. The soldiers’ trial is continuing before the Court Martial.
The RCL deputy leader said the government was under pressure to appease Lt-Gen Kamoli.
“The government seems afraid to remove Lt-Gen Kamoli despite the regional bloc’s recommendation that he must be removed and soldiers who took part in the killing of the former army boss Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao should be suspended while their case is being investigates,” Dr Phooko said.
The opposition alliance, he said, told the Americans the recommendations should be implemented so the opposition and government can work together on bringing “lasting peace and stability to Lesotho”.
Dr Phooko added Mr Haskell said he had taken note of the opposition’s concerns over the rule of law and governance in the country.
Chief Molapo also told the Lesotho Times that the opposition reiterated governance concerns the Americans already knew.
“The US government already knows that Lesotho has political and security problems,” he said.
“The opposition had nothing new to tell Mr Haskell other than to highlight our concerns about the continued stay of Lt-Gen Kamoli at the helm of the LDF, the failure by the government to arrest the killers of Lt-Gen Mahao and the need for the exiled opposition leaders to return home.”
ABC leader Thomas Thabane and his BNP and RCL counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively fled to South Africa in May last year saying their lives were in danger from members of the military.
Chief Molapo also accused the government of “not doing anything” to bring peace and stability in the country because they wanted “to protect Kamoli’s interests”.
“We are hoping that the government will someday accept that there is a political and security problem in the country, and allow talks with the opposition to iron out the differences and start working together.
“The current government only wants to protect the interests and position of one person and does not care about the rest of the country. What is important to the government is Lt-Gen Kamoli and nobody else,” he said adding they told Mr Haskell that the exiled leaders would not return if Lt-Gen Kamoli remained the commander of the LDF.
Mr Ntsekele also said they told the Americans that the government’s stance was putting the support Lesotho received from development partners such as the MCC and AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) in jeopardy.
“SADC, African Union, European Union and the US are all aware of Lesotho’s political and security problems hence the country’s risk of losing economical support,” he said.
For his part, Communications Minister Khotso Letsatsi said the government held a meeting with Mr Haskell.
“I can only confirm that Mr Haskell met the Right Honourable the Prime Minister Dr Pakalitha Mosisili today, but can’t give any more details since it was a closed-door meeting. At the moment, Dr Mosisili has not shared what he discussed with Mr Haskell,” Mr Letsatsi said.
Mr Haskell arrived in Lesotho this week to assess the impact of the US government’s President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) renovation of health centres under Compact One completed in 2013, before meeting representatives of government, the opposition, the diplomatic community, and civil society.