today's Pick
Fears for Lesotho's future after 'coup'
Publish Date: Aug 31, 2014
Fears for Lesotho's future after 'coup'
People walk on August 31, 2014 in a market in Maseru. Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane claimed on August 30 he fled for his life after soldiers seized power in a coup. The military denied the reports. PHOTO/AFP
  • mail
  • img
newvision

MASERU - The attempted assassination of a top military commander plunged Lesotho into further turmoil Sunday, following an apparent coup that forced the prime minister to flee to neighbouring South Africa.

Gunmen attacked the Maseru home of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, district police commissioner Mofokeng Kolo confirmed, deepening a seeming battle for control of the military.

The pre-dawn attack was reportedly unsuccessful, killing only a dog, but Mahao's whereabouts is now unknown.

Mahao had been appointed head of the Lesotho Defence Force by prime minister Tom Thabane shortly before he was forced to flee to South Africa in the early hours of Saturday.

Previous commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli was accused of leading a coup attempt against him, a charge the military denies.

Low-ranking soldiers contacted by AFP said it was unclear who was now giving their orders. They remain confined to barracks.

As some life returned to Lesotho's streets Sunday, it was not clear who was in charge of this beautiful but poor mountainous kingdom of two million people.

Thabane is across the South African border in Ladybrand, unable or unwilling to return.

"I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal," he said.

Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Mothejoa Metsing told AFP he left Lesotho for talks in Pretoria.

"It is through the invitation of the South African president," who currently heads regional bloc the Southern African Development Community's security committee, Metsing said.

"There is no coup in Lesotho," he insisted.

In the absence of the premier and his deputy, constitutionally the Minister of Public Service Motloheloa Phooko is in charge of the kingdom, he added.

Phooko is a member of Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy party, which was in an uneasy coalition government with Thabane.

The party has also denied allegations of involvement in the coup.

Meanwhile the police were struggling to regroup after a deadly attack by the military on key installations early Saturday, which resulted in an arsenal of weapons being seized.

District police commissioner Mofokeng Kolo confirmed that one officer died in the attack.

Twenty-four hours later the police headquarters was still abandoned and most officers remained in hiding.

Fear of what's next

Amid the political turmoil, Maseru's residents stocked up on food and basic necessities.

"People are worried what will happen, because 'no work, no pay'," said fruit and vegetable vendor Kamele Pakisi. "There is no stability."

Worshippers filled the city's cathedral as normal, but many feared for what lies ahead, convinced this spasm of political violence was not yet over.

There is concern that a mass anti-government demonstration that was planned for Monday could bring a new chapter of violence.

"We are not afraid of today, we are just afraid of tomorrow," said Mphasa Chonela.

The police have called for the march not to go ahead, but critics question whether that is an attempt to protect the prime minister from criticism.

Meanwhile Lesotho's neighbour, regional power South Africa, and the Commonwealth warned the Lesotho Defence Forces that such action "shall not be tolerated".

The United States voiced concern at the security clashes and called for "peaceful dialogue" in Lesotho.

Lesotho has suffered a series of coups since independence in 1966, and the political temperature in the country has been rising rapidly in recent months.

The prime minister suspended parliament in June, forcing divisions in the ruling coalition to the fore.

South Africa has backed Thabane, and could yet decide to intervene directly to return him to power.

In 1998 South Africa launched an ill-fated invasion of Lesotho when the "kingdom in the sky" was in the midst of another political crisis, reducing the capital to rubble.

AFP
 

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Museveni directs Makerere on accurate fees structure
President Yoweri Museveni has given the Makerere University leadership up to the end of this month to furnish him with the unit cost of educating each student, with the purpose of establishing an accurate fees structure for the institution....
OPM officials refund scam cash
A number of officials from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) implicated in the multibillion financial scam have refunded monies they are suspected to have pilfered under the newly introduced plea bargain arrangement....
Rwanda suspends BBC broadcasts over genocide film
Rwanda on Friday partially suspended BBC broadcasts over a controversial documentary on the central African country''s leadership and the 1994 genocide....
I am not grooming my son for presidency
That is an insult. Why should I groom my son? This is not a monarchy; this is not a feudal arrangement. It is a democratic order....
UN in South Sudan sees possible deal but no peace
The UN mission in South Sudan is bracing for ongoing fighting even if a political deal is reached between rival leaders, the new head of mission said Wednesday....
Wives not cows: Uganda dowry fuels domestic violence
When Ugandan farmer''s daughter Rose Akurut became engaged to a man from a village far from her own, her parents could not be more thrilled....
Should diplomatic passports issued to ex-govt workers be with drawn?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter