LDF troops set to leave Mozambique

 MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – The plug is likely to be pulled from the much-hyped Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) contingent’s involvement in the regional SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) following the six-month extension of the assignment. This week finance minister, Thabo Sofonea, revealed on the national broadcaster that the continued engagement of the LDF in the operation could be terminated due to financial constraints Lesotho faces. Sofonea said Lesotho will not be able to finance her troops’ prolonged stay in Mozambique. The mission was supposed to end in January this year but has been extended with six months by a SADC Summit held in Malawi last week.

“The government is operating on a very tight budget,” the minister said. “The Mozambique crisis was not budgeted for but our support to the country is a priority and urgent.” He said essentials needed to sustain the deployment include food, transport, military clothes and medication for the Lesotho troops in Mozambique, which he indicated are expensive and will not sustain the soldiers for a further six months – looking at what the army has now.

He further noted that army aircraft that is currently being used in Mozambique could also be withdrawn as the country will need to use these in the coming elections. Sofonea, however, noted that Lesotho has assured the summit that despite Lesotho’s possible withdrawal from the mission, the country remained fully behind Mozambique despite the financial constraints. SADC decided to extend its force mission in Mozambique to provide military support in fighting terrorism in the country’s Northern region.

This decision was announced in a communique by the body through Organ on Politics, Defence and Security chairman, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Wednesday this week in Lilongwe, Malawi, where the regional bloc held an extraordinary Summit and reviewed its mission’s progress in Mozambique. The deployment is meant to support Mozambique’s efforts in combating terrorism and acts of violent extremism orchestrated by non-state armed actors in Cabo Delgado, a gas-rich northernmost province bordering Tanzania.

National army spokesperson, Captain Sakeng Lekola, speaking to Public Eye this week, said the decision to extend the troops’ mission in Mozambique was reached by government and the army could, therefore, not have a say on the matter as it is a decision above them. Lesotho joined regional troops and contributed soldiers to the SADC mission in Mozambique; a mission formally launched on Monday August 9, 2021, to beef up Rwandan and Mozambican forces who were already engaged to retake strategic towns from Islamist insurgents.

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. Lesotho has since deployment lost one soldier in the Mozambican operation, Commando Private Moalosi Joseph Khoaele, who succumbed to malaria.

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