SA to lead observer mission to Lesotho

SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

A South African-led observer mission is to be deployed to Lesotho for three months with the hope that stability will prevail and enable the mountain kingdom to hold elections.

This emerged on Monday in a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Double Troika Extraordinary Summit in Pretoria.

President Jacob Zuma, called the one-day summit as the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics and Defence following an attempted coup on 30 August. Peace talks between political parties have deadlocked since the coup.

The summit mandated that Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, supported by the Secretariat and a team of experts from troika member states, act as SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho with clear terms of reference to facilitate the restoration of political and security stability in Lesotho, in the short and long term.

“[The] summit mandated the SADC Organ Troika plus Zimbabwe to urgently deploy the full SADC Politics, Defence and Security observation mission in Lesotho for a period of three months, after which it could be reviewed to ensure peace and stability within the defence and security establishments,” reads the communique issued at the end of the summit last night.

The summit was attended by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Botswana President Ian Khama , Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his Deputy Mothetjoa Metsing, as well as representatives from Malawi, Namibia and Tanzania.

Lesotho's coalition party leaders have also agreed to bring forward the 2017 general elections to a date to be agreed upon after consultations between the coalition leaders of the coalition government and other political stakeholders.

The summit urged the leaders of the coalition government to uphold their commitments towards restoration of constitutional normalcy in the kingdom by implementing the Windhoek and Pretoria declarations as a matter of urgency, especially the lifting of Parliament prorogation within the agreed time, during which focus should be placed in preparing the brought forward elections.

Thabane did not meet last Friday’s deadline to reopen Parliament after rival political dealers deadlocked over the implementation of the SADC peace deal.

SADC sees the re-opening of Parliament as a critical step towards restoring peace and stability in Lesotho.  

Thabane suspended the Parliament in June in an attempt to avoid a vote of no confidence that was pushed by his coalition partners.

The suspension, along with the dismissal of army Chief Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, was believed to be among the factors that triggered an attempted coup late last month.

At the opening of the summit earlier on Monday, President Zuma voiced his optimism for a resolution.

"We are very confident that this summit will help us to move forward on a number of issues," said Zuma, adding that SADC wanted Lesotho to get back to normalcy as soon as possible.

The summit also discussed the stalled peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Concerns still remain over the slow disarmament and demobilisation of members of the defeated M23 rebel group which have been operating in the North-Kivu Region of that country.

The DRC government signed a peace deal with the M23 rebel movement last month in the presence of regional leaders in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Monday’s summit reiterated the SADC position on the role of the UN agencies in providing logistics and security to Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who have voluntarily disarmed and are being relocated to Kisangani transit camp.

The first voluntary disarmament came into effect last week - when a group of 83 combatants of the FDLR formally disarmed in South Kivu in the eastern part of the DRC.

The FDLR is a Hutu rebel group that conducts its operations from the eastern part of the DRC.

The summit directed the secretariat to facilitate the Organ Troika Senior Officials Mission, with a strong and clear message to the leadership of the FDLR to unblock the process of voluntary disarmament, and report back to the MCO Troika at its next meeting.

Leaders also urged the international community, the United Nations and its agencies to initiate a resettlement programme in countries outside the Great Lakes Region to accommodate those FDLR elements who have voluntarily disarmed but are unwilling or not allowed to repatriate to Rwanda.

The regional leaders also appealed to the international community to put pressure on the companies dealing with illegally mined minerals from DRC to stop doing so with immediate effect. -

Photo caption: Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima, SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax, President Jacob Zuma (South Africa), President Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Prime Minister Thomas Thabane (Lesotho) and President Ian Khama (Botswana) at the SADC Double Troika plus Two Meeting. DIRCO