30 August 2014

Lesotho: Military Seizes Police Headquarters in Possible Coup Attempt

Photo: Sarah Fretwell/UN
Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Soldiers in the southern African kingdom of Lesotho have seized police headquarters and surrounded government buildings, officials say. The unrest comes after police banned a planned anti-government protest.

Lesotho's military seized police headquarters and jammed radio stations and phones early on Saturday morning, media and officials say.

"The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police," Thesele Maseribane, a member of the ruling coalition, told the AFP news agency.

"They've jammed phones, they have jammed everything," he added, also saying that the soldiers had driven around his residence and that of Prime Minister Tom Thabane.

Maseribane said he had fled hours earlier after receiving a warning, describing the military action as being a probable coup.

"The commander said he was looking for me, the prime minister and the deputy minister to take us to the king. In our country that means a coup," he said.

He maintained, however, that Thabane's government was still in control and that the prime minister was safe at a location he declined to disclose.

South African broadcaster eNCA also reported that soldiers had surrounded administration buildings in the capital, Maseru, and that gunfire had been heard.

The unrest comes after police banned an anti-government protest planned for Monday.

The Kingdom of Lesotho, a tiny landlocked country bordered on all sides by South Africa, has been governed by a shaky coalition since elections two years ago.

Its current king, Letsie III, came to power again in 1996 after previously reigning from 1990-1995 while his father, Moshoeshoe II, was in exile. Most of his duties are ceremonial in nature.

The country of some two million inhabitants has high unemployment, and many people live well below the poverty line.

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