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LESOTHO: SADC security forces set to withdraw

Security forces from South Africa and Botswana, in Lesotho to restore stability under the aegis of the South African Development Community (SADC), are to be withdrawn from the
mountain kingdom by 15 May.

"A SADC training team will remain, however, in Lesotho in order to assist with the reconstruction and training of the Lesotho Defence Force," a statement sent to IRIN by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said. "SADC has agreed that South Africa and Botswana will each create a standby force for rapid intervention until the next elections in Lesotho."

SANDF spokesman Colonel Puso Tladi told IRIN on Friday: "The situation has been assessed to be satisfactory, but we don't want to rule out anything, we don't want to rule out any freak occurrence." He added: "The standby forces is a contingency plan in case anything should develop. But we really don't for see anything happening." Tladi said the forces would be based in Botswana and South Africa.

"The opposition will be happy with the withdrawal, they considered the intervention as an invasion in the first place," a media source told IRIN. "But I can bet you the government is not happy with the situation, they feel they are going to be attacked by the army."

The SADC intervention was launched in September last year after opposition protest against alleged election rigging turned violent. The intervention was initially resisted by elements of the Lesotho army which had earlier mutinied, and the capital Maseru was pillaged by looters as lawlessness took hold.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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