Up for murder of Lesotho PM

2002-04-22 19:49

Maseru - Twenty-five soldiers were charged in the Lesotho High Court on Monday with the 1994 murder of the then deputy prime minister of the mountain kingdom.

The 25 accused were also charged with kidnapping four government ministers at the time.

They are scheduled to reappear in the court in Maseru, capital of the southern African country, in August.

Nine of the soldiers were accused of kidnapping the four politicians on April 13, 1994, and enlisting another 14 soldiers to kill deputy prime minister Selometsi Baholo.

Baholo was murdered on April 14 at his home in Lithabaneng, 4km south of Maseru.

Their hostages were Pakalitha Mosisili, then education minister and now prime minister; natural resources minister Monyane Moleleki, then minister of information and broadcasting; the leader of the opposition Lesotho Congress Party (LPC), Kelebone Maope, then justice minister; and his deputy in the party, Shakhane Mokhehle, then minister of trade and industry.

The kidnapping came after clashes between rival factions in the Lesotho army over political allegiances.

Two of the accused protested to reporters that they knew nothing of the incident until they were arrested in 1999.

'Related to forthcoming elections?'

"I had never seen any one of the ministers face to face until after my arrest and they also had never seen me before," one of them claimed, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The two privates said they could not have been at the scene of the Baholo shooting as their duties at the time differed substantially from those of the other accused.

They raised concerns about the timing of the arrests and charges, which come in the run-up to general elections on May 25.

"We cannot say this is in any way related to the forthcoming elections but it sure raises a doubt. Why are we now just being brought to court at campaign time?

"Is it so someone can claim he brought the killers of Baholo to book before the elections?" one queried.

The deputy leader of the opposition Basotho National Party, Bereng Seksekhonyana, alleged the indictment of the soldiers was a "political ploy" by the ruling party to destabilise the country. - Sapa-AFP