Demilitarising the mountain kingdom : an action research project in Lesotho
Tlohang W. Letsie
Lesotho is a politically unstable country that is characterised by all kinds of violence – physical, structural and cultural. The country established an army in 1979 and since then the army has contributed in various ways to perpetuating this violence. Annually, Lesotho spends around 5 per cent of its budget on the Ministry of Defence and National Security, with over 80 per cent of this allocation going to the army. The huge expenditure on the army is questionable considering Lesotho's
... cal location. The contribution of the Lesotho army to political conflict and poverty calls for research on ways to address this unenviable situation. Demilitarisation (disbanding the Lesotho Defence Force) appears to be the most viable solution. Using an action research approach, this research engaged in various activities to teach the public about the feasibility and benefits of demilitarisation. Literature shows that there are demilitarised countries and that these countries have generally higher living standards than their militarised counterparts. Some of the non-militarised countries rely on police forces for their security while some have got into security pacts with their stronger neighbours. An examination of the Lesotho's situation shows the likelihood of considerable resistance to the demilitarisation process. It would therefore be necessary, in the case Lesotho eventually decides to disband its army, that the country comes up with a detailed plan of execution before implementing the demilitarisation process. Various case studies of demilitarised countries provide a good guideline of the changes that would need to be adopted, and the pitfalls that would need to be avoided to achieve demilitarisation. The incumbent prime minister has on a number of occasions voiced his desire to see a non- militarised Lesotho where the tasks currently performed by the army would be taken over by a highly-specialised police force. Lesotho is currently enjoying a lot of international support in its attempts to reform its security sector, in response to recent developments that have seen the army intrude in civilian politics, as well as numerous criminal acts committed by the members of the LDF. The vision of the incumbent prime minister, coupled with the above-stated international support, render this the appropriate time for Lesotho to demilitarise and undergo a fundamental transformation of the national security sector.