Regional SADC force ends Lesotho mission

At least 200 soldiers deployed a year ago to bolster security in Lesotho after the killing of the country's top army commander have left the landlocked kingdom, an official said on Wednesday.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc, deployed a force after Khoantle Motsomotso was shot dead in barracks by officers from a perceived rival faction.

The shootout occurred two months after elections and rocked hopes of ushering in a new era of stability in the volatile country.

The seven-nation SADC force, which included 207 military personnel, 15 intelligence officers and 24 police officers, was deployed for an initial six months which was later extended to a year.

The mission was deployed to help "strengthen peace and security" in the kingdom, SADC spokesperson Barbara Lopi told AFP. "It's completion of a mission."

At a ceremony last week to mark the end of the mission, SADC executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax hailed "good progress" in restoring security.

"There is significant improvement in the working relations amongst the various security agencies, the government and civil society," she said.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said the SADC mission left Lesotho "with the confidence that our security agencies would now respect civilian authority and conduct their services as mandated by the constitution."

Known as Africa's Switzerland because of its mountainous scenery, Lesotho has a long history of political instability having also suffered coups in 1986 and 1991.

In 2015, a former army chief was gunned down by soldiers who claimed that he was resisting arrest outside the capital Maseru.

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