Lesotho tense but peaceful

2014-09-07 15:00

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An uneasy calm reigns over Lesotho as the country’s political future continues to hang in the balance.

Residents of the capital Maseru continued with their business in the city yesterday as though their country was not in political limbo following last Saturday’s “coup” by the military, which forced Prime Minister Tom Thabane to temporarily flee to South Africa.

Fears of renewed violence are plaguing Lesotho following the looting of the country’s armoury by renegade army chief Tlali Kamoli on Friday, barely a week after he allegedly attempted to overthrow the government.

Kamoli reportedly absconded with the weapons and a group of highly trained soldiers after refusing to participate in talks prescribed by the settlement reached at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Pretoria on Monday.

A local police officer told City Press by phone that, although police returned to work on Wednesday, they “got some information that we might get some attacks from soldiers”.

This hasn’t happened yet, but police were still on the lookout, he said. The officer, who did not want to be named, said they did not know where Kamoli had gone with the army’s equipment after he disappeared on Friday.

Basotho continued to shop, do their nails and some were even playing golf at the local golf course in Maseru, a city with more than 230?000 residents.

But signs of instability are there. The National University of Lesotho, in the town of Roma, has temporarily shut down because of the political situation.

South African police officers are also visible as they guard Thabane, the head of the Basotho National Party Thesele Maseribane and designate army head Maaparankoe Mahao.

The police officers can also be seen at major hotels like Maseru Sun and Lesotho Sun, where some of them are stationed.

Parliament, which was suspended by Thabane in line with the Lesotho Constitution, supposedly to avoid a vote of no confidence, is expected to reopen on September 19 following the intervention of the SADC troika to restore political stability.

Thabane was quoted on Lesotho TV news on Friday as saying the country’s political leaders were going ahead with the implementation of the SADC troika’s agreement to meet with King Letsie?III, reopen Parliament and remove the head of the military, Kamoli.

But Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing contradicted everything the prime minister said and added he had not been informed about plans to remove the army chief.

The police force sides with Thabane, but the army backs Metsing.

It is not clear what will happen when Parliament reopens because Thabane still faces a possible motion of no confidence. But newspapers in Lesotho are speculating that he might dissolve Parliament so that the country can hold fresh elections.

Ordinary Basotho are unsure if that will bring stability to the Mountain Kingdom.

– Additional reporting by Felix Dlangamandla

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