“SADC seized with the situation in Lesotho”

A deafening silence filled the room when the newly elected Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane interrupted the opening ceremony of the 37th SADC Summit that was held on 19-20 August in Pretoria, South Africa to make “an important announcement.”

The anxiety was perhaps due to the fact that since 2012, the Kingdom of Lesotho has been experiencing some political instability, hence the concern that the “important announcement” could be some bad news.

However, what followed that deafening silence was laughter and cheers as Thabane wanted to announce that he was getting married and was therefore inviting the region to join and rejoice with him at his wedding ceremony, which eventually took place on 27 August, and attended by several people from the region.

Fast-forward to 5 September.

A more serious and genuine silence engulfed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) once again following the assassination of the Lesotho army chief.

SADC has condemned the assassination of the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lieutenant General Khoantle Motsomotso, saying the incident could affect efforts to promote and find a lasting solution to the political situation in the country.

“This development (assassination of Motsomotso) is a serious blight and set back to the ongoing efforts to restore peace, security and stability to the Kingdom of Lesotho,” chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in a statement.

“It is an unfortunate occurrence which threatens the prevailing peace and security of the SADC region as a whole.”

President dos Santos said in a bid to “avert the possibility of further deterioration of security” in the country, “SADC is immediately deploying a Ministerial fact finding Mission” to Lesotho.

The Mission to be made up of the SADC chairperson President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Organ Troika Ministers as well as defence and security experts will visit Lesotho on 7-10 September.

“The Fact Finding Mission is expected to conduct an assessment of the security situation and to hold meetings with all key stakeholders in the Kingdom of Lesotho in order to establish the root causes of the assassination and subsequently recommend the appropriate courses of action,” dos Santos said.

He said the region will remain seized with the political situation in Lesotho and is committed to the process of ensuring a return to political stability in the country.

“SADC wishes to reassure all citizens of Lesotho, Member States and the entire international community that SADC remains seized with developments in the Kingdom of Lesotho and will spare no efforts in ensuring the maintenance and restoration of lasting peace and security to the Kingdom of Lesotho.”

To promote and find a lasting solution to the situation in Lesotho, SADC has put in place various measures.

For example, in 2014 SADC appointed a special facilitator, South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa to mediate in the Lesotho political situation.

In 2016, the region deployed an Oversight Committee in Lesotho to help the country consolidate peace and security.

The Oversight Committee was established to serve as an early warning mechanism, and lend assistance to the implementation of the constitutional, security and public sector.

The regional support to Lesotho has been critical in addressing some of the challenges faced by Lesotho including the successful holding of elections on 3 June.

Lesotho has experienced recurring political instability since 2012, including an alleged coup in 2014, and has held three national elections within five years.

The elections were prompted by votes of no-confidence passed on the respective Prime Ministers by the Parliament.

The assassination of Motsomotso on 5 September follows a similar incident in June 2015 when former army chief, General Maaparankoe Mahao was alleged assassinated, plunging the country into a crisis.

Motsomotso was shot at his home by a group of soldiers who had recently been fired.

Thabane’s former wife was also shot and killed a few days before his inauguration. Thabane and his wife had separated and were no longer living together.

These raging power struggles within the army have threatened peace and security in the country.

As captured by every speaker at the inauguration of Thabane as the new Prime Minister of Lesotho on 16 June, there is need for Lesotho to channel its resources towards finding a lasting solution to its political instability and ensure that the country could focus more on socio-economic development. sardc.net

Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985.      Email sanf[at]sardc.net     

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