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View on Africa: Renewed violence makes SADC's job harder in Lesotho
Date: 5 August 2015
Time: 11h00 - 12h00
Venue: ISS Pretoria (map) and online: VoiceBoxer

The issue

There is a new security crisis in Lesotho. This follows a change of government after early polls in February, which resulted in a new seven-party coalition government – Lesotho’s second in three years.

The February poll was expected to restore stability and security to the country and the new coalition government committed itself to this. But, after three months in office, the government’s decision to terminate the appointment of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao as Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and reinstate Tlali Kamoli ostensibly set a number of negative developments in motion.

Former LDF Commander Mahao was killed on 25 June in an LDF operation to arrest him for alleged mutiny. This also led to the country’s former Prime Minister Thabane and two other main opposition leaders to flee the country in May 2015. The crisis has also manifested in the arrest of up to 50 army personnel charged with mutiny. Other soldiers and politicians have also fled the country with the likelihood of many following suit.

More recently, the government authorised ‘Operation Clean up’ – headed by army and police units. The operation is supposedly targeted at police officers that resisted the 30 August LDF operations under Kamoli, which were reported as a coup attempt by the former prime minister.

These developments have triggered a renewed mandate and intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led by the South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa. But, despite several agreements and recommendations from SADC to quell insecurity in the country, the new government seems resolute to do things its own way.

Key points

  • The Lesotho government consistently denies the prevailing insecurity, despite broad consensus from SADC and others that the security situation is deteriorating. The government has also failed to reassure all concerned that core problems are being addressed.
  • In May, the government instituted charges of mutiny against several LDF soldiers. A court marshal against the soldiers is to be instituted – while many are reported to be tortured. Extra judicial punishment of suspects has also been reported without any resolve.
  • Those outside government have labelled the mutiny charges as a white wash operation. This is because of the inconsistencies in the narrative and the dates alleged.
  • Civil society organisations appear to be on a collision course with government. They have put pressure on the government to explain ongoing developments and are mobilising towards a constitutional court challenge against the government and LDF for torture.
  • There are questions regarding who is in charge of the country, and whether the LDF is unaccountable to the executive. Although politicians have direct control over the army, the army also appears to have direct control over the politicians.
  • The effectiveness and sustainability of the SADC facilitation mission in Lesotho is also in doubt. 

What to watch

  • How and whether the Lesotho government will create a conducive environment for the return of opposition leaders and others in exile. This was also recommended by SADC.
  • The final terms of reference for the SADC COI and whether it would establish the facts of the current situation and seek long-term solutions.
  • The deployment of an Oversight Committee as per SADC resolutions. The committee is to act as an early warning mechanism, in the event of signs of instability, and may intervene as appropriate.
  • Whether Lesotho will be supported by SADC to take over its chairmanship at the next SADC Summit in Gaborone, Botswana later this month.

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Le regain de violence complique la tâche de la SADC au Lesotho

Quel impact le regain de violence politique, notamment l’assassinat de l’ancien chef de l’armée, le général Maaparankoe Mahao, a-t-il eu sur la situation politique au Lesotho ? Les principaux donateurs tels que les États-Unis et l’UE ont déjà averti qu’ils pourraient retirer leur appui si la situation ne perdurait.

La réunion de cette semaine sera présentée par Dimpho Motsamai, une chercheure de l’ISS basée à Pretoria.

Elle examinera les conséquences de la fuite des plusieurs hauts responsables de l’opposition, au rang desquels Tom Thabane, et discutera de l’apport de la mission de facilitation de la SADC pour la stabilité dans le pays. 

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