KING Letsie III says the envisaged multi-sector reforms should yield a professional security sector that is free from the unwarranted interference and abuse by politicians.
His Majesty said political interference in the army had been at the heart of instability that the country has faced since independence. He said this while delivering the key note address at the opening session of the three-day multi stakeholder national dialogue which began on Monday and ended yesterday in Maseru.
The national dialogue, which was attended by leaders of political parties in government and in the opposition as well as other stakeholders, is expected to come up with an agenda for the constitutional, security sector, governance, judicial and media reforms that were recommended in 2016 by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
SADC has since given Lesotho up to May 2019 to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms.
Speaking at the opening session on Monday, King Letsie III said the security sector has been plagued by political interference which had contributed to perennial instability.
“Since our independence in 1966, we have some episodes that we cannot be proud of as a nation,” King Letsie told the delegates.
“Since 1970, Lesotho has experienced periods of political upheaval where we have witnessed such things as conflict over disputed election results, the toppling of governments and the enforced exile on some of our citizens.
“All of these unfortunate events and occurrences have helped to create an atmosphere of political instability. The instability has on more than one occasion, led to urgent intervention by SADC and regrettably, lives have been lost as a consequence.
“More recently, this toxic atmosphere of political instability resulted in the deaths of two commanders of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and these incidents shook the nation.”
His Majesty said the instability could partly be resolved through reforms that would yield a professional security sector that is free from the unwarranted interference and abuse and by politicians.
“In light of our recent history, I have to say a critical sector that deserves considerable attention during the reform process is security sector. We all know that Lesotho has not had an enjoyable experience with regards to our security. Over the years our defence and security institutions have been confronted with sustained and debilitating challenges of inter and intra institutional conflicts which have had a very negative impact on their ability to carry out their mandates.
“I have to say that a major cause of these problems within our security institutions is external political interference. There is no doubt that in a healthy democracy, security institutions have to be firmly under the control and supervision of the elected civil authority.
“But we also have to find ways of protecting them from undue and illegitimate political influence,” His Majesty added.
In recent times from 2014 to 2017, the country has experienced a high degree of instability which included among other things the attempted coup of 2014 by soldiers who under the command of the then Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) boss Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
Two army commanders Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao and Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo were assassinated by their subordinates in June 2015 and September 2017 respectively.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 at Mokema just outside Maseru. The LDF claimed at the time that Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny against Lt-Gen Kamoli when he was killed but that claim was dismissed as false by a SADC commission of inquiry into his death in 2016.
Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was gunned down on 5 September 2017 at his Ratjomose Barracks offices allegedly by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi. The two were subsequently killed in a shootout with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards that same day.
The long-delayed national dialogue was finally held after 16 October 2018 SADC brokered a deal between the government and the opposition which paved the way for the return of exiled opposition leaders including former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, his deputy in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Tšeliso Mokhosi and Socialist Revolutionaries leader, Teboho Mojapela.
And on Monday, King Letsie III implored all stakeholders to put the country ahead of partisan interests and work to ensure the success of the reforms process.
“As you embark on this important task (of reforms), I call on you to demonstrate exemplary leadership by adopting a selfless approach to the issues that are being discussed.
“You should be mindful of the significance of the outcomes of your deliberations on the lives of the people of this country and the stability of Lesotho.
“Your commitment and determination to find last solutions to Lesotho’s political security and socio-economic development should be the guiding principle of your work. In the early 90s after a lengthy suspension of our independence constitution, the nation embarked on a constitution-making exercise which culminated in the enactment of the current constitution in 1992.
“However, the experience we have gained through the passage of time has taught us that our constitution has to be revisited and strengthened to accommodate in a clearer fashion, the political developments and realities of today such as the coalition governments.
“I am most grateful to note that most sections of our society have acknowledged that the current constitution has to be scrutinised and strengthened so that it can be a stronger anchor of peace and stability in the kingdom,” His Majesty said.