National security agencies are within their constitutional mandate. It is unnecessary for them to be apologetic to rogue elements in the society but must embrace rule of law, civilian rule supremacy, peace and stability of the country.

By Tsikoane Peshoane

In the midst of the brewing security crises in Lesotho due to the armed security detail of the disgruntled ABC-factions, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) realises the significance of emphatically denoting our stance on the matter focusing on the three following issues; (a) the cause of the crises, (b) reaction of the state security agencies to the crises, (c) possible solutions and recommendations to alleviate the tension before it sours to even more dreadful levels that could lead to the violation of a number of human rights, particularly loss of lives.

It is worth noting that the heads of state security agencies show intention to act as they acknowledge the threats posed by the armed security forces protecting the disgruntled ABC-factions. In line with the principle of Civilian control; they go on further to let the public know of their observations seeking to justify their possible cause of action and explain their unwillingness to thwart the threat earlier.

The heads of national security agencies go on to further acknowledge that the longer they stay out, the more the security crises may deepen and stability may deteriorate. Even more troubling is that the security forces clearly denote that the manner of appointment of the security personnel is unsatisfactory. They alleged that though the weapons they wield were legally allocated to them, most of them were found guilty of violating their code of conduct as they executed their duties and lost their jobs to that regard, particularly due to behaviour-related issues.

As such, the heads of states security bodies express their distress and disapproval for both the appointment procedures of these so called security personnel and their mandate. The security heads go on to express their regret for their lack of involvement in the issue up to now.

The security heads` skepticism to get involved is not misplaced. Lesotho has a troubled history with the politicisation of its security forces. The inception of these institutions, mechanisms of their control and accountability for their actions have largely been for the benefit of Lesotho`s political elite. The important principle of Civilian Control of the army though a requirement has been per vetted and abused by the ruling elite over time resulting in chaos and death both within these institutions and to civilians.

It is therefore not far-fetched to hid the army`s observation that these supposed security forces could actually be rogue militia intended to be used as instruments of coercion to cling on to or to acquire power. TRC has strongly denounced the violation of human rights brought by security institutions under the control of politicians in the past, and continues to condemn the use of these institutions for political interests as they belong to the state, neither a particular individual, political party nor government administration.

It is revolting that the political elite in Lesotho, particularly those in government tend to create this instability and security crises as they have before, which makes us wonder if they have learnt anything at all from our troubled past with institutions of security in this country.

Further inaction by the national security agencies is therefore unacceptable because it is their constitutional mandate to uphold peace and stability in the country and though their involvement may have yielded terrible results in the past that should not be a prohibiting factor.

It is worth noting also that the national security agencies are eager to redeem themselves before the nation and have been letting their actions do the talking:

  1. Police

 In recent times, have played a significant role through criminal investigations that led to the retrieving of bodies that were discarded into Mohale Dam amidst serious political outcry.

 When the ABC, N.E.C elections were showing signs of possible outbreaks of violence, the L.M.P.S went on to peacefully shutdown the process sighting expiry of the permit.

 Moreover, when the incoming N.E.C wanted to host a rally at the Lithoteng and Qoaling constituencies, and Members of Parliament (MPs) of the Constituencies and other members affiliated to the State-House faction resisted, another possibly violent outbreak was thwarted by the issuing of a permit to host that rally.

  1. National Security Service (NSS)

 The NSS played an instrumental role as well of significant investigations that led to thwarting threats before they manifested into conflicts that led to bloodshed.

  1. Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)

 The army recently disarmed members of the community of illegal firearms, went to school campaigns and explained the essence of militarism to upcoming students.

 They were heard reiterating the significance of patriotism and ensuring the welfare of Basotho by serving the nation and bringing health services to the most remote areas of the land.

It is for reasons stated above and others that TRC maintains its stance on the importance of the national security agencies maintaining peace, stability and security because they have proven to actually do their job well without political infiltration into these institutions.

More importantly, TRC would like to remind the security heads of their Legal obligations. In terms of Section 146 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of Lesotho:

“There shall be a Defence Force for the maintenance of internal security and the defence of Lesotho. The command of the Defence Force shall be vested in the Commander and, subject to any direction of the Defence Council, the Commander shall be responsible for the administration and discipline of the Defence Force.”

This mandate is further consolidated by the Lesotho Defence Force Act 1996: 5(b) (ii) and (c) which state:

“The Defence Force shall be employed- in the prevention or suppression of internal disorder; the maintenance of essential services including maintenance of law and order and prevention of crime.”

With regard to the above (LDF Act section 5) caution must be taken that this is not an exclusive mandate of the army, Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is better placed to undertake this role hence it is very imperative to engage the latter to lead the army in the execution of the maintenance of the internal security.

Moreover, the Constitution Section 147 (1) and (2) also state that,

“There shall be a Police Service for Lesotho that shall be responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Lesotho and shall have such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of Parliament. The command of the Police Service shall be vested in the Commissioner of Police and, subject to any direction of the Defence Council the Commissioner shall be responsible for the administration and discipline of the Police Force.”

The mandate is further elaborated by the Police Service Act 1998:4 which states,

“The police maintained under section 3 shall be called the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, and it shall be deployed in and throughout Lesotho to uphold the law, to preserve the peace, protects life and property, to detect and prevent crime, to apprehend offenders, bring offenders to justice, and for associated purposes”

Finally, Constitution Section 148 (1) and (2) categorically affirm that,

“There shall be a National Security Service that shall be responsible for the protection of national security. The Command of the National Security Service shall be vested in the Director of the National Security Service who shall be responsible for the administration and discipline of the National Security Service.”

This mandate is further explained by the National Security Service Act 1998: 5(1), (2), (a) which states that:

“The function of the Service shall be the protection of the national security. Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) the Service shall – (a) protect the state against threats of espionage, terrorism or sabotage which may infringe on national security.”

Constitutionally, all three security institutions are mandated to maintain security both internally and externally, while also maintaining law and order as clearly stipulated by their respective Acts/parliamentary statutes. More significantly though, is the allocation of authority to their heads to discipline their members, retired, fired and otherwise.

The TRC therefore reiterates the swift action of the security heads upon realization of the security threat. This is because they are constitutionally tasked with the provision of security and responsibility for the administration and discipline of the members of the force. It is in-light with this mandate that security institutions in Lesotho should be unapologetic in the execution of their constitutional mandate in that regard. IF YOU WANT PEACE WORK FOR JUSTICE!!!! NW

Tsikoane Peshoane is the Director of Resource Transformation Center (TRC)

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