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May 2016

Be Afraid! Implications of “Operation Condor” on Lesotho

The past week has been traumatic for past and present dictators in the world. The jailing of 88 year old former general Reynaldo Bignone for twenty years in prison for his role in Operation Condor, under which an international death squad was set up by six South American military dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s has been one of the most significant developments in post Nuremburg jurisprudence. While the Nuremburg in the trials, former Nazi military personnel were jailed for the crimes they committed during the war, in spite of their sterile defence that they were obeying orders, the jailing of Bignone indicates that avoiding jail because of holding power is a temporary escape. Justice will ultimately prevail.

The plan, as recounted in court, allowed death squads from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to cross into one another’s territory to kidnap, torture and kill political opponents who had fled across the border. Persecuted in their own countries, some were ultimately tracked down and tortured and killed. After their illegal arrest in all above countries, the victims were made to “disappear”, usually by being cremated, or thrown drugged but still alive from military planes into the Atlantic Ocean. (www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/27/argentina-last-military-dictator-jailed-over-role-in-operation-condor)

Luz Palmas Zaldua, lawyer for the Centre for Social and Legal Studies which represented the victims’ families pointed out that this was the first time that the existence of Operation Condor has been proved in court. “It is also the first time that former members of Condor have been sentenced for forming part of this criminal organisation.” Two things are important besides what Zaldua has said.

First, is the point that holding power is temporary. All the dictatorships including the Argentinian one attempted to protect themselves from accounting for their crimes by use of power and also making laws which would ostensible not allow them to be able to be charged for their crimes. They forgot was that what they have done can and would most probably be undone in the future by successor regimes.

Second, the case indicates that time is not a factor for all those who are still alive. Bignone and several of his colleagues who have been jailed now are over 75 years old and they are now being jailed for crimes which they committed in 1970s and 80s. Not only have they lost power, but they are answering for the crimes they committed 40 years ago. Temporary hold on power doesn’t ensure that there is indefinite impunity.

The above leads to consideration of the state of affairs in Lesotho following the Phumaphi Report. Amongst the significant findings of the Phumaphi Report Commissioned by SADC are the specific identification of crimes which need to be investigated and taken to trial. All the crimes identified were allegedly committed by high ranking government and military officials.  Lately, some leading  government political allies have espoused thee view that they will say to SADC that they are ready to  implement the decisions taken in Gaborone, Botswana on 18/01/2016 but will drag  the process and ensure that none of the people who have been fingered in the report ever face trial. It is a case of cynicism and duplicity. Having failed to convince SADC that Lesotho’s refusal to take action against its allies in the military who have tortured, murdered and committed some of these crimes is sustainable, the government seems to have decided to behave like a typical African socialist by indicating left and then turning right. This is to publicly declare that the recommendations from the Phumaphi Report will be implemented while taking measures to prevent any meaningful action to implement those.  Like Bignone and his co-conspirators, they assume that the passing of time will make their victims and their families forget their agony. That is unlikely to happen.

There is no suggestion in the Argentinian case that Bignone himself tortured, drugged people and threw them into the Atlantic Ocean. He was found to have been part of the criminal gang which did so in his political capacity. This is where the cases below have a wider significance than to implicate the military personnel who committed them. It is about the Command which was part of that conspiracy and also the political leadership which participated and attempted to shield their foot soldiers from accountability after committing the crimes. This is precisely why the Bignone case must leave both the political and military leaders in Lesotho trembling. They will eventually be tried!

Paragraphs 122-127 of the Phumaphi report provides the contexts of the political scene in Lesotho. The paragraphs provide an overview of the political shield that was provided by the political leadership to the crimes allegedly committed by the military. It also provides a picture where the relations between the military and the civilian leadership is made clear. The military is not under civilian control and the political leadership is inextricably linked with the section of the army which is linked to some of those crimes. In particular Paragraph 122 specifies:

Evidence led before the Commission is that at the Security Sub-Committee meetings led by the Deputy Prime Minister, Commissioner Tsooana raised issues of LDF suspects who were being sought after by the police which Lieutenant General Kamoli shielded. Evidence led is that the Commander was not willing to release these officers and that the Deputy Prime Minister’s security was instead beefed up by deploying some of these suspects to his security detail. (My emphasis)

It is because of this inextricable linkage between the political leadership and the military that the crimes which are allegedly committed by some in the top echelons of the LDF have to be considered. It is these crimes which, like those committed by the former leadership in Argentina, will ultimately be accounted for by both the political and military leadership in Lesotho. Amongst the crimes listed by Phumaphi are the following:

a) The list of cases in which members of the LDF are alleged to be involved, where the LDF Command is said to be blocking the cause of investigations, include; Morija Police Station CIR 673/01/12 attempted murder, Mafeteng Police Station CIR 30/04/12 murder, Mohale Police Station CIR 03/04/12 attempted murder, Mokhotlong Police Station CIR 274/06/13 attempted murder, Leribe Police Station CIR 12/04/13, Thamae Police Station CIR 146/05/14 murder, Police Headquarters CIR 778/09/14 murder of a police officer, Maseru Police Station CIR 2535/02/15 murder of a security guard and attempted murder of an LDF member. (Paragraph 136  of the Phumaphi Report)

  1. b) The Report also writes about the fact that the LDF has become a law into itself as corroborated by warrants of arrest issued on 17/04/2014 for High Treason against ” …Brig. Mokaloba, Major Lekhoa, Major Ntoi, Captain Hashatsi, 2nd Lieutenant Nyakane, 2nd Lieutenant Hlehlisi, Corporal Mokhesuoe, and Lance Corporal Mpolokeng Moleleki, and another warrant of arrest issued on the on the 29th September 2014 for Treason against Kamoli, Captain Hashatsi, Brigadier Mokaloba, Lt. Colonel Phaila, 2nd Lt. Nyakane, 2nd Lt. Hlehlisi, 2nd Lt. Moeletsi, Major Ntoi. (Paragraph 138 of Phumaphi Report)
  2. c) On the killing of Mahao by LDF, the Report observes that Sechele has identified himself as the Operation Commander. He was further identified together with Hashatsi as part of the team that was in the scene when Mahao was killed allegedly resisting arrest. This is a version which the Commission specifically rejects. (Paragraphs 131-133 Phumaphi Report) The operation to kill Mahao, even though it was not labelled as such, involved many more people within the civilian administration and the military. Accountability therefore will go beyond those who pulled the trigger.

In the recent past, there has been a furore in Lesotho about the implementation or otherwise of the Phumaphi Recommendations which SADC has now endorsed and are thus a regional consensus. Some people in the ruling coalition government have even suggested that those decisions like the removal of Kamoli as Commander of LDF cannot be implemented. The issue for me is that the decisions will be implemented sooner or later.

The delay to enforce the implementation by SADC is a setback but not a critical issue.  It is sometimes normal in international institutions that action is delayed. But the case of Bignone illustrates that accountability for all the crimes which are presently held hostage by the political quagmire in Lesotho will ultimately be had. Even the rumoured attempts to legalise in one way or another the commission of cases of High Treason, murder, torture and defeating the ends of justice through an amnesty law, are futile. Another law to reinstate those cases will be made in the future. This is not a mere hope. It is a promise! No law legalising crime will stand even after 40 years.

As I signed off here, word came out from Senegal that the AU backed criminal trial of former Chadian President Habre has been completed and he has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed while in office more than 25 years ago. Another pointer that committing crimes and using office to shield you is only short term measure.

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The Dinosaur Governance Mentality: Moleleki and Company’s Syndrome in Lesotho

The twenty first century has for good or for worse brought about change in both the structures and ethos of governance. It’s not long ago that whoever was in government in Africa thought that he could do anything internally including torturing and murdering citizens. The bad old days were characterised by the government leaders almost canonising the principle of non-interference in their internal affairs.  It was indeed internal affairs to misrule and kill people on a large scale with the understanding that all outsiders would close their eyes and ears so that they could pretend that they have not seen people being killed and also that they have not heard the screams of anguish by people being tortured. This is the legacy of the 20th century.

The 21st century brought in a new era. It is the era where democracy has come to trump all other systems of governance. But more importantly it is an era where good governance and accountability have become the norm. At the international level governments are now subjected to the template of good governance. Indeed the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the responsibility to protect was specifically a counter to the old ways of pretending that killings within a domestic environment were not the concern of the international community. Those who dislike this norm are outcasts who no longer merit support by their peers and international partners. Indeed the dinosaur mentality, a relic of old politics, still exists. Such mentality however has consequences as the Lesotho case shows.

Three examples on this will suffice. They point to a country which is desperately moving towards the precipice without regard to the consequences.

Ø  In the Southern African region, SADC has adopted far reaching decisions on Lesotho requiring it to undertake specific constitutional, public sector and security reforms. It has gone further to demand that the rule of law be restored to the country and specifically that LDF Commander, Kamoli must be relieved of his command;

Ø  In line with this consensus that the rule of law is wanting in Lesotho, the US through two of its agencies (MCC and AGOA) have made its displeasure clear about the state of the rule of law in Lesotho. Specifically the two institutions dealing with those areas of cooperation with Lesotho have insisted that further cooperation is dependent on the implementation of Phumaphi/SADC Commission recommendations;

Ø  The EU has withdrawn budget support for Lesotho because of failure to adhere to certain accountability standards agreed earlier. But more importantly, the EU has, like other international partners officially urged the Lesotho government to implement the decisions of SADC.

It is for the same reason that a number of civil society organisations have similarly marched and provided Prime Minister Mosisili with their demands that the implementation of the Phumaphi Commission be implemented in order to save jobs endangered if AGOA status was revoked by the US.

It is thus not surprising that when I was attacked at the dead of night on the 6th May 2016, where gunshots were used and my bedroom windows were smashed, a variety of national and international organisations expressed concern. The concern was not just for the individual concerned. It was within the context of lack of stability and the rule of law in Lesotho. It is within this context that the Chairperson of the AU made a statement condemning the aforementioned attack and decrying the lack of rule of law in Lesotho. It is this breaking of ranks by the AU Chairperson with her peers in Lesotho, who live in the old world where international organisations only hear from the government that has irked the government. The government’s reaction to the AU statement had three strands, but all tied up to the past ways of doing things.

First came Moleleki, Minister of Police who on the whole says that the AU has no business on the attack and should not have got involved, after all nobody was injured. He says that the matter never even made its way to a security meeting he held a few days later. In trying to respond, Moleleki actually confirms the view that in his view security is preoccupied with other things, and not those things concerned about protection of human life and property. For him the attack would have been significant only if injuries and death had occurred. His is a world of denial and defensiveness and should be regarded as mere theatre!

Interestingly Moleleki goes on to rhetorically ask “Who is this Sejanamane whose attack could be said to have caused instability and the deterioration of the rule of law in this country?” (Lesotho Times, 19 May 2016). If Moleleki had only read a Statement made by the Senate of the National University of Lesotho on this matter; and the statement by the AU Chairperson on the same issue, he would not have had to ask that question. You can always trust such structures nationally and internationally to give you a view of the standing of the individual they talk about. Those institutions don’t judge people on the basis of their social and political climbing but how they are regarded by their peers around the world. Unlike others, the truth be told, whose only qualification for eminence is their skill in social climbing, a University Professor is a knowledge creator who is not expected to be acknowledged by Moleleki’s elk whose only qualification is being a minister. Being a Minister is no qualification!

In another bizarre response, Communications Minister Letsatsi, in an interview in Harvest FM while correctly pointing out that he had not seen the Statement from the AU sought to distance the attack from the present Lesotho quagmire  but suggested that the possibility of the attack  being  linked to my colleagues at the University. Why he did not elaborate. But could I also suggest that such an attack could have been linked to people working with Letsatsi?

Finally comes the pronouncements of Foreign Minister Sekhamane, of the “bloodbath fame if Kamoli is removed from office”. For Sekhamane, the AU statement is not legitimate. It did not follow the right channels. It was smuggled through by a Mosotho who works at AU on behalf of the opposition. Just imagine! Sekhamane’s world is warped in time. His is in denial and paranoid whenever he sees a Lesotho citizen whom he does not control. He promised to hold a press conference soon to clarify these issues. We can expect great theatre and no substance since his knowledge of the world is shockingly minimal.

The reaction of the Lesotho government to the instability in the country is difficult to understand by outsiders, but generally clear to people who live in Lesotho. Some of them can only survive in an environment of instability. Instability ensures that they cannot answer for their crimes in the courts of law. This tends to be so for those, as Machiavelli pointed out, that leaders who inherit their success are more often more likely to fail than self-made people who are forced to learn important life lessons during their own climbs. Let those who have ears hear! But it is important to see theirs as a syndrome hence we should always try to find an antidote to their illness rather than leave them alone.

The government is now relying more on force rather than intelligence. Let them remember one of  Machiavelli’s sayings that “One must therefore be a fox to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten wolves”. Force in not everything, particularly when you are on the wrong side of history.

Where a Man’s Home is not his Castle: Political Thuggery in Lesotho

In several posts in lesothoanalysis and other media, I have attempted, maybe unsuccessfully, indicated that Lesotho has been undergoing a serious political and security crisis. This has reflected itself in several high-level murders of people in the military, the police and civilians. Some of these heinous crimes have been listed in the Phumaphi Report and suspects have been listed who need to have their day in court and hopefully a long stay in prison. None of those murderers have been arrested and none will be unless the perpetrators are arrested by an outside force. This crisis has also manifested itself in the flight of all opposition political leaders whose parties are represented in parliament. It is a strange situation where leading a political party which has support condemns you to exile.

SADC which had commissioned the Phumaphi Commission has made several decisions, including that of relieving Kamoli of the Command of the LDF and the arrest of the rest of the criminal gang which has been shielded by Kamoli’s Command and the connivance of Prime Minister Mosisili’s government. None of those decisions have been implemented. Realistically they could not be implemented without outside supervision. We know that Kamoli refused to leave office when he was dismissed by former Prime Minister Thabane. Nobody could have expected that he would comply with the latest attempt directed by SADC to leave office or to arrest himself and those of his Command who have been fingered by the SADC Commission as involved in High Treason, murder and other serious crimes. They, like everybody who has committed crimes, need a superior force to ensure that they answer for themselves in independent courts. Lesotho of today is a hostage of those who fear to account for their crimes. They think that they will always have weapons of war to thwart whatever attempts made to make them account for their actions. This is why political thuggery will escalate in Lesotho.

Saturday morning (07/05/2016) at 2.00 a.m. CAT, when me and my family were asleep they came, fired two shots and when we scrambled for safety, they went on a rampage throwing stones into my bedroom windows. When their mission was complete, they left probably through the same route they had followed through the fence which they had cut to create an entry into the premises. They did not as much as talk or attempt to get into the house. They were either on an assassination or an intimidation mission.  They did not succeed in either, as this post indicates.

For two and half hours me and my family were in hiding and aware that the puppets who were destroying my property would probably stay long enough for one of us to try to check what was happening outside, thus giving them an opportunity to kill and then be able to report to the puppeteer that the mission has been accomplished successfully. We were better advised to huddle in a safe place. It is only after light came that we felt confident to check the damage. In the past, it used to be said that a man’s house is his castle. It is no longer so in Lesotho. Your house is now a place where one has to fear that those who are committing crimes can find how to kill you or keep you hostage.

As to who has been involved in this crime, I have no interest. I don’t blame the puppets but the puppeteers. I have very little regard for cowards who either cover their faces when they commit crimes, or come at the dead of night to attempt to murder or intimidate people. The key issue is that the hired guns are like mercenaries, who fight other people’s battles for a piece of silver. They are a despicable lot!

What I stand for is a country where democracy reigns supreme; a country where there is accountability by all, particularly the government; a country where the rule of law is prevalent. We have to outgrow the old system of hero worship and blind obedience to those who are in power. Power without the necessary moral authority is bridle and those who rely on it are doomed because it does not last. But even when it lasts, history has shown that the long hand of justice catches up with them. In Chile as we speak the crimes which were committed by the military junta in the 1970s-1990s are being accounted for. In wheelchairs some have just been committed to prison where they belong.

The attempt to intimidate and silence me is a futile exercise. Most of those hired guns were not born when we resisted previous regimes including the military junta in its many phases which took over power in in Lesotho in the eighties. Ours is a fight for justice. Guns and stones cannot stop the March of history. Even if I am the last one standing I will still resist. If all of us who want accountability fall, could the last one put off the lights!

 

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