Johanesburg - SADC troops have been withdrawn from Lesotho as the intervention mission ended its operations in that country.
The troops which were mobilised from SADC countries including Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe had been operating in the politically unstable mountainous kingdom since 2 December 2017.
The SADC flag was lowered during an exit parade at Setsoto Stadium in Maseru on Tuesday this week.
The standby force, also known as the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL), comprised 207 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 12 civilian experts.
SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, commended the force for the role they played in ensuring that peace was maintained in the country.
She also sent a message of condolence for the SADC soldiers who lost their lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu Province last week.
“On a sad note, allow me on behalf of SADC, to pass my condolences to the people of DRC, Malawi and Tanzania for the loss of our soldiers who were killed in the North Kivu province on the 14th of November 2018,” she said.
Speaking during the exit parade, Lesotho Prime Thomas Motsoahae Thabane said he was grateful for the assistance that his country received from SADC, adding that he was confident the SADC mission was leaving at a time when stability had been restored in the country’s security apparatus.
“I am hopeful that the security will now be able to respect civilian authority and conduct their services as mandated by the constitution of Lesotho of Lesotho,” he said.
The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) also expressed their determination in dealing with malcontents who may want to take advantage of the void created by the departure of the SADC troops to create mayhem in the country.
“We are ready to thwart any elements who may want to see the departure of the SADC troops as a license to renew their past anarchy….that will not be tolerated. We will deal with any such elements mercilessly,” said a LDF official.
The SADC force was essentially deployed to prevent rogue LDF soldiers from destabilising PM Thabane’s coalition government as it went about implementing SADC recommended reforms to curb perennial instability in the kingdom.
SAPMIL was initially deployed for a period of six months until May 2018 after which the mission was extended by a further six months to November 2018 to foster a conducive environment to help the country in implementing SADC’s recommended multi-sectoral reforms while pushing for the restoration of the rule of law.
The reforms were recommended by SADC in 2016 as part of measures to bring lasting peace and stability to the country.
The regional body’s recommendations were made in the aftermath of the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his army colleagues in 2015.
The regional body gave Lesotho until May 2019 to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms but the process has been stalled by bickering between the government and the opposition with the later making a plethora of demands before it participates.
However, the impasse between the two sides seems to have finally been resolved after they signed a pledge committing to participating in the reforms process.