Confusion reigns in Lesotho as Prime Minister Thomas Thabane flees to South Africa, claiming that the Lesotho Defence Force has overthrown his government whilst the latter says that they disarmed the police who were allegedly going to arm factions at a protest March on Monday.
Deputy Prime Minister Mothet Joa Metsing supports the army, saying that the government has not been overthrown and that the army has substantiated their actions. Reactively, Thabane has accused Metsing of conspiring with the army to oust him.
The latest spark in this unsettled country was possibly struck yesterday by Thabane’s attempt to replace the Lesotho Defence Force’s Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli with Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao. Thabane had accused Kamoli of causing dissension within the military. An army spokesperson has reported that Kamoli remains in charge.
The uncomfortable situation stretches further back as Thabane has ruled the past two years atop a fragile coalition. He suspended Parliament in June, an action that some see as his way of hanging onto power as a no-confidence vote in him was expected. Additionally, Metsing has stated that he would form a new coalition and take power.
“The All Basotho Convention (ABC) [currently] leads the coalition government in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The upper house of parliament, called the Senate, is composed of twenty-two principal chiefs whose membership is hereditary, and eleven appointees of the king, acting on the advice of the prime minister.” *
Either the army has assisted Metsing illegally or has, opposingly, helped Lesotho get closer to finally reopening it’s parliament. The South African government has taken a side, calling “on the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force to order the Army to return to their barracks and allow the democratically elected Government of the Kingdom to carry on with its business.” The irony is that the government was not carrying on with its business.
Lesotho is a poor country with one-third of its population requiring food assistance. The biggest employer is the government, emphasising its power. This small country, with a population of 2.1 million, is landlocked by South Africa. South Africa intervened militarily in 1986 and 1998.
One soldier and four policemen have been reported killed. Radio stations and telephone lines were cut. The army claims to have returned to their barracks.