SADC's pursuit of peace costly …Lesotho and DRC peace efforts gulp R258 million

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By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - Efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to keep peace in the Kingdom of Lesotho have so far cost SADC taxpayers R250.6 million (US$17.9 million) since 2015.

About R107 million (US$7.7 million) was used for SADC Organ Mission in Lesotho, R133 million (US$9.5 million) for the Lesotho Contingent Mission, and R15.4 million (US$1.1 million) for the Lesotho Oversight Committee.

Lesotho has been battling political instability since 2014 brought upon by two main rivals, incumbent prime minister, Thomas Thabane and former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

After more than five years in opposition, Thabane built a coalition of 12 parties in the wake of the May 2012 parliamentary election and was appointed Prime Minister.

In the February 2015 parliamentary election, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) was democratically removed from power by a seven-party coalition led by his rival and predecessor, Mosisili, although the ABC did win the highest number of constituencies.

Two months later, Thabane fled to South Africa with two other opposition leaders, claiming that their lives were in danger, subsequently leading to major problems for the southern African Kingdom.

SADC was then forced to intervene to restore stability, which has proved to be a challenge so far.

In 2015, the SADC Council of Ministers approved a budget of R107 million (US$7.7 million) towards the SADC Organ Mission in Lesotho. Information shows that member states had paid R102.2 million (US$7.3 million) for this mission by September 2017. Malawi R1 million (US$78,000) and Tanzania R5.1 million (US$365,000) are the two countries that still owe money to the US$7.7 budget.

After the SADC intervention, Thabane and two opposition leaders returned to Lesotho on 12 February 2017 in order to participate in a parliamentary vote of no confidence that unseated Prime Minister, Mosisili.

The unseating of Mosisili escalated political tensions in Lesotho, which resulted in the death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao who was fatally shot by fellow members of LDF in 2017. Two soldiers were also killed while others were injured.

Thabane, who three years ago, escaped a coup also endured difficult time when his estranged wife was killed last year as tensions escalated in the mountainous African kingdom. To avert further crisis, SADC then approved a budget for the Lesotho Oversight Committee in March 2017, and by 21 May 2018 funds incurred on this activity stood at R15.4 million (US$1.1 million). 

Furthermore, a budget of R65.8 million (US$4.7 million) was approved in September 2017 for the deployment of the Contingent Force in Lesotho. In April 2018, the SADC Double Troika Summit held in Luanda, Angola, approved the extension of the Contingency Force for a further period of six months, effective May 2018 to the tune of R68.6 million (US$4.9 million).

This brings the total amount of R133 million (US$9.5 million) spent to restore peace in Lesotho in 2018 alone.

The extension is necessary because Thabane is struggling to implement SADC elements that are aimed finally bringing peace and stability to Lesotho.

Part of the elements, SADC is requesting for an amnesty that will cover the detained mutiny suspects and ensure the safe return of all members of the LDF who have fled Lesotho for the lives.

Other elements, requests Lesotho to tighten the country’s constitution, which is deemed to have loopholes that led to political and security instability. 

The elements also requested Thabane to fire LDF Commander, Lieutenant General Tladi Kamoli.

SADC says this element is critical because Lieutenant General Kamoli needed to be investigated for the death of former LDF Commander Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, who was fatally shot by fellow members of LDF.

Lieutenant General Kamoli has since been fired – although this element could come back to haunt the prime minister because of the loyalty that Kamoli has with the LDF ranks.

DRC office

In August 2017, SADC has also approved a budget of R7.4 million (US$534,200) to build a SADC liaison office in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The office is set to enhance SADC presence in the DRC, and provides an avenue for closer collaboration with stakeholders in the DRC, in the continued efforts by SADC to support the DRC attain sustainable peace, security, political stability and thus, socio-economic development.

Among others, the SADC Liaison Office will serve to coordinate SADC’s ongoing political, electoral and security support initiatives in the DRC.

Despite a staggering amount of money being spent to preserve peace in the region, SADC executive secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the region remains relatively peaceful over the past year.

 

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