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Friday, October 9, 1998 Published at 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK

World: Africa

Lesotho billed for South African intervention

Intervention and looting - costs going through the roof

South Africa is presenting Lesotho with a bill for the costs of an intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to put down a mutiny by Lesotho soldiers in September.

The South African Defence Ministry said that the Lesotho Government, which had requested the military assistance, was liable to pay for it.

"In terms of the status of forces agreement between South Africa and the kingdom of Lesotho, the receiving party, the kingdom of Lesotho, is responsible for the reimbursement of costs to South Africa," a ministry statement said.

Continuing costs

The South African Defence Ministry has estimated the cost of the first week of the intervention at 8.1 million rand ($1.4m), but has yet to put a tag on costs incurred since 1 October.

A joint military intervention force sent by South Africa and Botswana, on behalf of the SADC, originally numbered 800 soldiers, but their number has since increased to some 3,200 soldiers.

The forces look set to remain for weeks, if not months, while the Lesotho Government and opposition struggle to break a political impasse over disputed results of elections held last May.

Lesotho in ruins

The government of Lesotho has acknowledged that it must contribute towards the costs of the SADC intervention, but the foreign minister of Lesotho, Tom Thabane, said the costs estimated by South Africa were very high, and further discussions on who pays what should first take place.

[ image: Looting and arson left central Maseru in ruins]
Looting and arson left central Maseru in ruins
Lesotho, one of the world's poorest countries, also faces the massive cost of rebuilding its capital, Maseru, following a wave of theft and arson sparked by the intervention, which razed the town's shopping districts.

Damage to Maseru has been estimated at around two billion rand and Lesotho has begun appealing to foreign donors for financial aid to rebuild the capital.

The Lesotho Government said on Friday that 246 businesses were destroyed in the looting, and about 2,600 people lost their employment.

The United Nations has promised medical and food aid to Lesotho.

A UN official was quoted as saying the World Health Organisation would provide emergency relief at two Lesotho hospitals and the World Food Program would channel emergency food assistance.

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