Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)
The Mission of the Lesotho Defence Force is to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lesotho and uphold the Constitution of Lesotho. The primary role of the Lesotho Defence Force is to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lesotho. The secondary role includes the following:
- Assistance in the preservation of life, health and property.
- Provision and maintenance of essential services.
- Upholding law and order in support of the police as directed by Government.
- Support to State Departments as directed by Government.
- Compliance with international obligations like peacekeeping support operations and regional military cooperation.
Initially, the army was a paramilitary police - the Police Mobile Unit - in the 1960s, transforming into a modern army - the Lesotho Paramilitary Force (LPF). The Army, formerly known as the Lesotho Paramilitary Force , was established as a separate entity from the Lesotho Mounted Police (LMP) on 01 April 1978. It was formally declared an army in August 1979 and subsequently elevated to a defence force proper in the 1980s when it assumed the status of the Lesotho Defence Force.
The LPF was renamed after the January 1986 coup, and is now known as the Royal Lesotho Defense Force (RLDF). Transformation of the police paramilitary unit into the LPF was stimulated by a revival of insurgent activity by followers of Ntsu Mokhele and his Basutoland Congress Party and the subsequent need for a better equipped force. Also, the move had roots in internal power politics, probably in the Prime Minister's desire to offset the armed potential invested until then solely in the police.
Both remained under the control of Chief Jonathan in his role as Minister of Defense and Internal Security. A coordinating committee in the office of the Prime Minister coordinated police and army matters. The Army commander, police commissioner, and head of the Special Branch all enjoyed equal rank.
During the January 1986 coup, Major General Lekhanya, Commander of the LPF, emerged as the leader of the newly formed Military Council. He and other members of the council, particulary Colonel Joshua Letsie and Colonel Thaabe Letsie, removed themselves from the routine operations of the military, and a new Army commander, Brig Gen Benedict Lerotboli, was appointed.
However, following the military coup of 1986 which witnessed the demise of Basotho National Party (BNP) rule and its replacement by a military junta initially led by Maj Gen Justin Metsing Lekhanya, name of the army was changed to the Royal Lesotho Defence Force.
Major Equipment in the 1980s included Rifles (R-ls of South African manufacture and Israeli Galil assault rifles); light machineguns (RPD, RJK and M60s from Taiwan); 81-mm mortars (Taiwan); 2-inch mortars; Shorland armored cars, various Land Rover and jeep-type vehicles; Bedford 3-ton riot trucks; and seven or eight French-made armored cars. Additionally, Lesotho was reported to have received a large shipment of weapons and equipment from Communist countries, to include small arms and ammunition, radios, and 11 North Korean light Kaengsaeng 4 x 4s. Lesotho was known to be seeking additional arms and equipment. West Germany provided some aircraft and heavy-duty all-terrain vehicles. Israel is reported to have sold 10 light armored vehicles (RAM V-1) in 1987.
The LDF's engineering company provided labor for the US Department Of Defense Humanitarian Assistance Program (HA) [DHAP] funded renovation of health centers and schools identified by the GOL. Lesotho's FY06 HA allocation was diverted to provide post-earthquake assistance to Pakistan. Under the HA program, however, DoD earmarked $100,000 for FY 07/08 projects in Lesotho. Submitted projects include renovations to the Sehlabathebe Health Center in Qacha's Nek District ($50,000), Ntlo-Kholo Primary in Thaba Bosiu ($30,000), and Loreto Primary at Qoaling ($20,000).
By 2008 DOD had also funded HA projects at clinics in Matukeng, Thaba-Tsoeu, Mpharane, Tsaeeng, and Litsoeneng. Renovations at Mohokare Primary School in Maseru were completed by 2009. In addition, DoD had donated excess property to schools and hospitals, including $20,000 worth of medical supplies in 2006 to the national referral hospital and school furniture worth $8,000 in 2007 to Itumeleng Community Primary and Bataung Secondary Schools in Mohale's Hoek District. As a result, the LDF's engineering corps increased its capacity, improved the quality of life for rural communities, and fostered the mil-mil relationship between the U.S. and Lesotho. The HA program was vital to mil-mil cooperation and to fostering a positive image of the U.S. military in Lesotho.
In light of Lesotho's receptivity to engagement with the U.S. military, the nation's leadership role within regional organizations, the LDF's public embrace of AFRICOM, and the military's increasing professionalism, by 2008 the Mountain Kingdom was ripe for increased military-to-military engagement. For an African nation of its size, Lesotho's defense force demonstrated a remarkable desire and growing capacity to play a positive role on the international stage. Further military cooperation would be productive and beneficial to key U.S. national security interests in the region, particularly by supporting the LDF's growing respect for the rule of law and increasing capacity to contribute to regional peacekeeping and domestic humanitarian crisis response.
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