Lesotho king: Stop using the army for 'dirty' work

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King Letsie III (File: AFP)
King Letsie III (File: AFP)

Malibamatso - King Letsie III on Thursday called on Lesotho's political leaders to stop using the army for "dirty" work, as he addressed mourners at the funeral of a commander who was assassinated last week.

Khoantle Motsomotso was gunned down by rival officers at a barracks in the capital Maseru, as the struggle between the tiny nation's military and politicians continues to be marred by violence.

"My plea to us all leaders is to stop sneaking around, approaching soldiers to do our dirty political missions while we promise them all sorts of things," said Letsie, who is Lesotho's constitutional monarch.

He said the killing had caused "embarrassment" and"scared" the small mountain kingdom.

The funeral was held in a village around 80km north of Maseru and attended by hundreds of mourners.

Flanked by army chiefs from several neighbouring countries, the king said the killing had "embarrassed us as a nation... making us a laughing stock of other nations".

'Serious, consistent problems' 

"Khoantle's death has scared us all," he said. "Let us stop engaging in activities that throw this country into disarray."

He urged the army to support the new acting commander, Major General Lineo Poopa, to "work hard to get the army out of these serious, consistent problems".

The shootout took place just two months after an election won by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, which was largely expected to usher in a new era of stability.

Critics accuse the military of favouring Thabane's old rival, Pakalitha Mosisili, who ruled from 1998 to 2012 and 2015 to 2017.

Motsomotso was the second Lesotho army chief to be assassinated by fellow soldiers in two years.

The two officers who shot Motsomotso were later shot dead by his bodyguards.

'Lost peace and stability' 

The officers, Tefo Hashatsi and Bulane Sechele, were among soldiers that Southern African Development Community (SADC) had said should be prosecuted for the murder of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015.

Letsie is a constitutional monarch who has no role in the political affairs of the impoverished nation, which is surrounded by South Africa.

Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki echoed the king's sentiments, urging politicians to stop using the army for political gains.

"We must stop enticing soldiers...if we stop this, we will be able to regain lost peace and stability," he said.

The regional SADC, which has been leading peace talks in Lesotho, will meet Friday in Pretoria to discuss the latest developments in the country.

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