SADC preventive mission in place in Lesotho


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has positioned a just on 300-strong preventive mission in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

It was officially put in position at the weekend by the SADC representative of the chair of the organisations’ Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, Admiral Gaspar Rufino, during a parade in Maseru.

A communique issued by the regional body late last month indicated a contingent force and not a force of battalion strength as originally indicated, would go to the landlocked country to stabilise matters following the assassination of the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant General Khoantlhe Motšomotšo, in September.

Reports have it that soldiers, police and civilian components of the force started arriving in Lesotho up to two weeks ago, with the mission officially declared active at the weekend following a rehatting ceremony, similar to that undertaken by troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping and peace support missions.

Seven of SADC’s 15 member states – Angola, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are contributing to the mission. At the time of publication there was no indication from either the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) or the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) as to what exactly South Africa’s manpower contribution to the mission is.

According to an SADC statement Rufino, who is also defence secretary of Angola, said the mission would support Lesotho in “its quest to restore peace, security and stability to the country and not to take over or replace the Lesotho Defence Force or other security institutions of Lesotho. It should not be considered an intruder or an invader but rather be seen as brothers and sisters from the region willing to assist the Basotho people”.

He was optimistic that at the end of the mission, which has been approved for six months at present, both SADC and Lesotho would be winners.

The mission will be known by the acronym SAPMIL (SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho) and its current composition is 207 military personnel, 15 intelligence officers, 24 police officers and 12 civilian experts.