Military coup in Lesotho? What on earth is going on?

It’s not often that Lesotho makes it to the international news scene. Not until now that is. 

Street vendor sells newspapers headlined
 "Lesotho in turmoil coup attempt" in Maseru, Lesotho.

Last weekend the political situation in Lesotho descended into a state of turmoil that some are calling a military coup. Political grievances have been bubbling away in the capital city Maseru for months due to a disgruntled three-way coalition government, but those grievances all came to a head on Saturday.

In the past week, the Prime Minister fled the country, police services have been suspended, radio stations corrupted, and news reports contradictory. Some foreign embassies are evacuating citizens and many more have issued a red flag. But who knows what is really happening!

A Lesotho Defence Force member displays arms
confiscated from police at army barracks in Maseru.

Now, TTL is about 300km away from Maseru, tucked away in the majestic Maluti mountains, so on the whole it’s business as usual. All being well, this quarrel won’t reach us. But the current state of affairs has made our Outreach visits a little more precarious and perilous.
So, what’s the deal and how long will this go on (as far as we understand it)?

In June, Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy party (LCD) Mothetjoa Metsing suddenly announced that he would be removing his party from a three-way political coalition that had brought Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to power two-years ago. Thabane, in retaliation, suspended parliament and effectively avoided any vote of no-confidence that could threaten his leadership. South African President Jacob Zuma travelled to Lesotho to host talks with the country’s leaders to find some middle ground; however, two months later it seems Zuma’s talks did little to quell discontent.

On Saturday 30th August, Basotho soldiers allegedly seized weapons from several police stations and surrounded Prime Minister Thabane’s residence. One police officer was killed in the ensuing struggle and several injured. Thabane commands the loyalty of the police and Metsing has the support of the army, so Thabane’s supporters have accused Metsing of trying to overthrow him. The deputy premier and the military have denied any coup attempt. 

Government spokesman Ramakhula Ramakhula says Thabane had sought a military intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Lesotho to restore order. Apparently Metsing opposed the proposal, arguing there was “no serious problem” in the southern African kingdom. Which man is telling the truth? You can see the confusion!

However, things seem to be starting to improve. The Prime Minister, his deputy and the leader of the third coalition party, Sports Minister Thesele Maseribane, released a statement on Tuesday to say that they are “committed to working together” to restore stability. SADC has also pledged to help the parties create a road map to reactivate parliament. So, for now, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that good ol’ democracy will shine through and work.
Think of us and keep your fingers crossed that the quarrel is settled soon and doesn’t reach us here in Mokhotlong & Thaba-Tseka!


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