SADC issues ultimatum on reforms

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…regional body frustrated by Lesotho’s failure to implement reforms

Pascalinah Kabi

LESOTHO faces a race against time to implement the constitutional and security sector reforms that were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) after the increasingly exasperated regional body this week gave the country until May 2019 to ensure that the said reforms are fully implemented.

The SADC position was expressed at this week’s Double Troika Summit that was held in Luanda, Angola on Tuesday.

SADC also extended the tour of duty of the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) by a further six months from May 2018 to November 2018 as part of efforts aimed at ensuring that the reforms are implemented.

The Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, SADC Chairperson and Namibian President, Hage Geingob, eSwatini’s King Mswati III and Angolan President João Lourenço attended the summit.

Also in attendance were the Zambian President and chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Edgar Lungu, Vice President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) president, Joseph Kabila and the executive secretary of SADC, Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

Although the official SADC communiqué released at the end of the one-day summit was couched in diplomatic language, the Lesotho Times has established that the regional body is not impressed by the country’s failure to implement the reforms that were recommended by SADC in 2016.

The reforms were recommended in the aftermath of the report by the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led 10-member Commission of Inquiry that was appointed by SADC in July 2015 to investigate the killing of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his army colleagues.

So far there has not been any discernible progress towards kick starting the reforms due to the bickering between the government and the opposition over how the process should unfold. The opposition has issued demands for a government of national unity, a blanket amnesty for its leaders and the former army commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli, who stands accused of serious crimes that include murder.

And this week, SADC implored the bickering governing and opposition political parties to be “serious” in kick starting the national dialogue and the reforms process.

The regional body also highlighted the need for “seriousness in finding lasting solutions to the political and security challenges facing the Kingdom (of Lesotho)”.

So grave is SADC’s exasperation with Lesotho that on Monday, South Africa’s Minister of International Affairs, Lindiwe Sisulu, narrated how what should have been a brief one and half hour ministerial meeting ended up becoming a five hour meeting to ensure that the Lesotho issue was fully discussed.

“This morning we thought that it would be one and half hours but it turned out to be five hours and more and you can see from that the intensity of the discussions that came out from that,” Ms Sisulu said in a television interview after the inter-ministerial meeting on Monday.

“We discussed Lesotho at length. It took half of the time that we had for the meeting but by the end of it we were quite satisfied that with all the plans that we put in place, we will be able to find some stability in Lesotho.

“We have a new government in Lesotho and they have given us a briefing on how far they are with the developments there. We had with us the SADC Oversight Committee which gave us an overview of what problems are still outstanding and we were able to interrogate what we got from the government of Lesotho and the report of the Oversight Committee and we expressed our concern to the government of Lesotho that perhaps we could fast-track some of the issues that we have committed ourselves to.

“Lesotho has been in this situation for far too long for a country of that size and we continue to be very concerned but uppermost in our minds is how we can help Lesotho get out of its situation,” Ms Sisulu said.

For their part, the SADC heads of state endorsed the Roadmap for Reforms and National Dialogue that was presented by the government of Lesotho.

They however, resolved that “the government of Lesotho must prioritise the constitutional and security sector reforms, which should be completed by May 2019, and a progress report to be presented to Summit in August 2018”.

“The summit called upon all political parties and stakeholders in Lesotho to accord the needed seriousness to the National Dialogue and the reforms processes and find lasting solutions to the political and security challenges facing the Kingdom.

“The summit also approved the extension of the SAPMIL for a further period of six months from May 2018 to November 2018,” the communique further states.

SAPMIL, also known as the SADC Standby Force to Lesotho, was officially unveiled in Lesotho on 2 December 2017 as part of regional efforts to foster a conducive environment for the implementation of constitutional, security sector, public service, media and governance reforms in line with the recommendations of the regional body.

The standby force is now in the fifth of its original six month mandate. The standby force is comprised of 217 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 13 civilian experts.

The SADC force was essentially deployed to prevent rogue Lesotho Defence Force soldiers from destabilising Dr Thabane’s coalition as it went about implementing SADC recommended reforms to curb perennial instability in the Kingdom.

The reforms include holding rogue LDF members accountable for their past atrocities and helping mould the LDF into a professional force via some targeted re-training.

The standby force would also help in the investigation of the 5 September, 2017 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi as well as the earlier killing of another LDF boss, Maaparankoe Mahao, among other tasks.

The extension should come as a relief to the government which, only a fortnight ago, told this publication that that the SADC mission should be extended because it is only just beginning its work with the LDF.

Ministry of Defence and National Security Principal Secretary, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae, said the LDF was lagging behind in terms of planned re-training programmes as well as the work towards reforming it to become a truly professional force.

“There are so many things that needed to be done by the LDF before we could even think of engaging in the reforms agenda. As a result, the LDF only started with a civilian-military co-operation seminar for warrant officers on Monday,” Col Mothae said.

Apart from the LDF issues, Lesotho is generally way behind in terms of the reforms timeline hence the SADC deadline.

According to the government’s roadmap for reforms, national dialogue on the reforms should have been held by now and an agreement should have been reached on the reforms to the justice sector, among other things.

The roadmap further states that by the end of this month, the National Security Policy (NSP) of Lesotho should have been adopted and a National Security Council established.

“Legislation to clarify and harmonise security sector architecture in line with NSP/Security Sector Strategy (should have been) adopted.

“The legislative process should be preceded by multi-stakeholder discussions around the key topics that should be addressed in the law including the National Defence Act and the Police Act. The discussions should be informed by regional, continental and international best practice,” part of the roadmap states.

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