business

Jan. 18, 2022

NTSAU LEKHETHO

3 min read

Lesotho is cash-strapped

Lesotho is cash-strapped

Minister of Finance, Thabo Sophonea

Story highlights

  • LDF troops in Mozambique could be withdrawn
  • The mission was supposed to end in January but has been extended by 6 months

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MINISTER of Finance, Thabo Sophonea says Lesotho troops serving against insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique could be withdrawn because the state is cash-strapped and cannot afford to pay their incentives any further following the decision to extend the military operations in that war-torn country.

The mission was supposed to end in January this year but has since been extended by another six months by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit held in Malawi last week.

Lesotho is among the SADC countries whose military personnel have been deployed to fight terrorism in Mozambique.    

Insurgents linked to the Islamic State have launched several offensives since October 2017 in Cabo Delgado, a coastal province rich in natural gas reserves and host to an estimated $US60 billion worth of international investment in gas projects.

“The government is operating on a very tight budget,” Mr Sophonea told Radio Lesotho on Monday.

“The Mozambique crisis was not budgeted for but our support to the country is a priority and urgent.”

He said supplies such as transport, food, military clothing, and medication to Lesotho troops in the trouble-torn Cabo Delgado region were expensive and were not sustainable for a further six-month period.  

With the forthcoming Lesotho national elections, Mr Sophonea said the aircraft that was used for the mission in Mozambique could also be withdrawn to assist ferry ballot papers and personnel at home.

During the SADC Summit held in Malawi last week, he said Lesotho had expressed its budget and resource constraints but maintained that its support to Mozambique was unwavering.

“We assured the summit that we were fully behind Mozambique despite our cash needs,” Mr Sophonea said. “We didn’t want to be seen to be withdrawing from a crisis that could also befall us in the future.”

He said the summit had also agreed to downscale the military operations from level six of direct combat to the operational level five, where social workers, police and prison warders would then be engaged from the respective SADC member states to deal with transition and help residents most affected by the fighting.

“The six month period will be divided by two, in which the first three months will entail the usual military operations and the next three months will involve humanitarian assistance,” Mr Sophonea said.

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“The police will patrol the streets, the social workers will conduct counselling sessions and prison warders will deal with rehabilitation.”

Almost 800 000 people have been displaced by the ongoing insurgency in Cabo Delgado and Mr Sophonea said the SADC summit had expressed its condolences to the countries and families of the troops that died in Mozambique.

So far, of the 125 members of the Lesotho Defence Force, only Private Moalosi Khoale has died from natural causes and another soldier was injured while serving in that southern African country.

In many parts of Cabo Delgado, access to essential services such as healthcare and schooling is difficult and Mr Sophonea said torrential rains were also hindering the movement of the troops.

Apart from military personnel, he said SADC member countries were offering humanitarian aid from food to healthcare in order to address some of the basic needs for the displaced and local host communities.

       

 

 

 

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