Lesotho army chief must go, says SADC
A Southern African Development Community (SADC) commission of inquiry into Lesotho has recommended that controversial army commander Tlali Kennedy Kamoli be fired as part of efforts to restore stability in the troubled kingdom.
But the recommendation is likely to stoke more turmoil as Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had declared that he was not bound by the SADC inquiry’s recommendations.
The SADC commission report was finally released in Lesotho’s parliament on Tuesday amid chaos from opposition MPs who heckled Mosisili as he addressed the House.
Opposition MPs claimed Mosisili had doctored the report and not released the original version.
They did not substantiate their claims as Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai, from Mosisili’s Democratic Congress, did not entertain their ubiquitous heckling and point-of-order disruptions.
The prime minister was forced to abandon his speech in which he sought to summarise the circumstances that had led to the formation of the SADC commission of inquiry led by Botswana High Court judge Mpaphi Phumaphi amid sustained heckling from the opposition who constitute nearly half of the MPs in Parliament.
Mosisili nonetheless tabled the Phumaphi report which main opposition All Basotho Convention deputy leader Tlali Khasu claimed had been edited.
Still, the SADC report released by Mosisili makes it clear that Kamoli, the Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF) commander, re-appointed after wrestling power from his predecessor Thomas Thabane, must be “relieved of his duties” in the interests of “restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation”.
The report also recommends the suspension of other LDF officers implicated in other murder or attempted murder cases while their cases are investigated. It recommends a vigorous investigation of the death of former LDF commander Maaparankpoe Mahao, whose killing by members of the LDF in June 2015, after Kamoli had been reinstated to his post by Mosisili, plunged Lesotho into further turmoil and prompted SADC to appoint the commission of inquiry.
The inquiry’s report was handed to SADC in November but had not been made public after Mosisili refused to receive it.
It was only after a threat by SADC, at a double troika summit in Botswana last month, to release it unilaterally that the prime minister received the report.
SADC had then set a February 1 deadline for the release of the report but this was extended to February 8 after Mosisili pleaded that he wanted to release the report when parliament re-opened on Tuesday.
The prime minister has nonetheless been making belligerent remarks, claiming that he reserved the right to edit the report in the interests of national security and saying he was not bound by its recommendations.
He had also cited a court case by one of the LDF top men, Tefo Hashatsi, believed to have led the operation that killed Mahao, seeking to have the entire SADC commission nullified, as one reason of not accepting the Phumaphi commission report.
Hashatsi’s entire case has since been dismissed by the Lesotho High Court.
Whether or not the report released by Mosisili is the original one seems largely immaterial now.
The main basis of the Phumaphi report was meant to be its verdict on Kamoli, who kick-started the Lesotho crisis by his coup attempt against Thabane on August 30, 2014.
Kamoli had been fired by then premier Thabane when he launched his coup attempt but was re-appointed by Mosisili after the latter won the February 28, 2015 elections called by SADC.
Upon his return Kamoli launched a reign of terror after alleging a mutiny by members of the LDF loyal to Thabane and allegedly led by Mahao.
This saw the arrests and torture of dozens of LDF members.
However, the Phumaphi report has disputed the existence of any such mutiny and recommends an amnesty on the soldiers arrested by Kamoli.
If Mosisili refuses to fire Kamoli as recommended by the SADC inquiry, the opposition is likely to maintain its boycott of parliament and implement its threat of mass protests.
Opposition leaders are also likely to remain in exile as they have vowed not to return as long as Kamoli remains at the helm of the LDF.