THE government’s failure to take tangible measures to stop atrocities being committed by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and hold its officers accountable was ample proof that it was complicit in the commission of “acts of terror” by the military, analysts said.
Condemning the LDF as having become a “lawless ghetto”, the analysts said the responsibility for all the military’s “heinous acts of terror” ultimately rested with the government. Its failure to halt these could only be interpreted to mean the government was either complicit or conniving with soldiers to commit these acts.
The assaults and torture of alleged planned mutiny suspects and last week’s murder of former LDF Commander Maaparankoe Mahao could not have happened if Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s coalition had taken corrective measures against errant soldiers.
Nqosa Mahao, the Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL), who is the late Brigadier Mahao’s blood brother, has since condemned the “small clique of rogues” whom he said has hijacked the LDF.
“They (the small clique) have taken control of instruments of coercion and are able to impose their authority on the LDF,” Professor Mahao said.
“I don’t believe the vast majority of LDF personnel support these incidents. We can’t say it’s the entire LDF, but only a select few because the same names always crop up in all bad acts.”
Renowned local political analyst Kopano Makoa, who is head of Political and Administrative Studies at the NUL said the fact that the military had been committing heinous acts without being called to account simply proved “a criminal orientation of the coalition government”.
“Their (soldiers) criminal acts are a reflection of the government’s own criminal orientation. Their criminal acts are being endorsed by government,” Professor Makoa said.
According to Professor Makoa, if the Lesotho government was not in bed with the military, then the LDF should have long been held accountable for the various “acts of terror” being committed by its members.
“But government has never called them to book for their atrocities, an indication that they are partners in crime and that there’s no rule of law. They (the military) are being endorsed by government in everything they do,” Professor Makoa said.
“The military is a reflection of a political project that the government is pursuing. The project is to use the military to secure power…”
Professor Makoa, nevertheless seemed to differ with Professor Mahao’s viewpoint that a few rogue elements were tainting the LDF. He said it did not make sense to take a “divisive approach” by pointing fingers at individuals within the military instead of “regarding the army as a whole”.
“When we speak of the army, we are referring to an institution from a scientific point of view. We cannot fragment it, it’s indivisible,” Professor Makoa said.
“The truth of the matter is that the army is one unit, whose overriding authority is the government, which seems to be endorsing criminal acts committed by the military.”
Tsikoane Peshoane, Head of the Social and Environmental Justice Department at the Transformation Resource Center (TRC) concurred, labelling the military a “lawless ghetto”.
“Politicisation of the military and militarisation of politics in Lesotho is now a major problem. The fact is, the military has deteriorated into a professional ghetto,” Mr Peshoane said.
Mr Peshoane said the arrests of soldiers accused of plotting a mutiny further proved the lawlessness being perpetrated by the army. It was legally inappropriate for soldiers to arrest other soldiers.
“The arresting officers are actually also the complainants who are virtually investigating their own case against all principles of natural justice,” Mr Peshoane said.
“If there was indeed a mutiny or a conspiracy thereof, the military should have set up a credible investigating team instead of using complainants as arresting officers. Any evidence against those arrested is therefore not credible, it is biased.”
He added: “Investigations of any mutiny need to have been undertaken by a credible commission of inquiry, for the sake of transparency and justice.”
He described the manner of Brigadier Mahao’s death at the hands of the military as being “ugly and painful”.
“The government is trying to cover up the truth…..The truth is that there is now rampant lawlessness in the army….,” Mr Peshoane said. He said Brigadier Mahao had been eliminated to prevent him from ever again ascending to the helm of the LDF as he would have ultimately exposed those who had abused the military for their own selfish ends.
However, Fako Likoti, another political scientist who is a former Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) commissioner, begged to differ, saying it was uncalled for to label the army “a band of rogues and a lawless ghetto”.
Dr Likoti says although Brigadier Mahao’s death wass “painful and unacceptable” people should refrain from “saying things when they are angry, that they might regret later”.
Dr Likoti said the military was a professional institution whose duties were “unique and of a confidential nature” and “executed within the context of the law”.
“Mistakes do happen in the line of duty but in general the military has been executing its duties quite well,” Dr Likoti said.
“I do not believe soldiers are angels. Hence, the need for constant reforms to professionalise the military.”
Dr Likoti also warned against dragging the army into the politics saying the military should be left to protect citizens and the country.
“Let’s not drag the military into our politics and let’s refrain from calling it names . . .,” Dr Likoti said.
He nevertheless urged a thorough and proper investigation of Lt General Mahao’s death “to establish how this tragedy happened”.
“We need to establish how this tragedy happened, to avoid a similar fate for any other person and the apportioning of blame in the future. But I must say I don’t accept the term rogues,” Dr Likoti said.