LDF troops back from tour of duty
MASERU – A total of 41 members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) contingent that is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) landed at the Moshoeshoe I International Airport in Maseru this week from a long deployment in the war-ravaged country.
There were tears, tight hugs and smiles as the soldiers who arrived in two batches touched down at the airport, with the first arriving in an LDF airplane on Tuesday afternoon while the second landed in a Zambian Airforce plane an hour later.
The contingent is returning home after nearly 10 months deployment to Mozambique’s Northern Province of Cabo Delgado where conflict over natural resources in the area is escalating between the government and the Islamic State-affiliated Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) extremist group.
The LDF soldiers played an integral part of the Special Forces of South Africa, Tanzania and Botswana who have been in Cabo Delgado province since mid-July 2021 as part of the SAMIM.
Apart from the LDF Deputy Command and government officials, also present on the tarmac to welcome the soldiers were their next-of-kin-evidently excited to see them back home.
Welcoming the troops LDF Deputy Commander Major General Matela Matobakele noted the troops’ contribution towards putting the rebels on the back foot since their arrival, which has led to residents now slowly returning to their homes.
Matobakele recalled a recent incident when he was on a visit to the soldiers in Mozambique, whereby SAMIM troops (Lesotho and Tanzanian contingents) were waylaid and attacked by the insurgents. He revealed the rebels were defeated and SAMIM troops managed to quell the ambush.
The deputy commander is of the opinion that for the war in Mozambique to end there has to be an amicable political agreement. He further noted that at present, the mission remains tough.
According to LDF spokesperson, Captain Sakeng Lekola, the arriving contingent will be provided with counselling for an unprescribed time at an undisclosed venue to address any post-deployment complications before they are reunited with their families.
SADC countries are active contributors in United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) peace support operations with contributions ranging from military observers, civilian police and the peace keeping’s ‘blue helmets’.
A significant number of civilians are also serving in both the UN and AU operations – individually recruited.
An LDF soldier, Commando Private Moalosi Khoaele, died of unspecified – non-combat related – causes while serving with the SAMIM, adding to a small yet growing number of fatalities recorded by the mission.
Private Khoaele died on November 28 last year, and his remains were repatriated back home.
Attacks in Cabo Delgado province have been staged since October 2017, throwing into chaos this coastal province rich in natural gas reserves. Thousands of residents in Cabo Delgado fled their homes for safety and many other residents have died since this conflict resurfaced early 2021.
The SAMIM force currently comprises troops and equipment from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
A further thousand troops from Rwanda are also in the east African country assisting Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique in an ongoing effort to remove ASWJ terrorists from Northern Mozambique.