31 August 2014

Lesotho: Leaders 'Due to Talk' in South Africa Following Alleged Coup

Photo: ComSec
Basotho voters at the 2012 polls which brought the current government to power.

Leaders of the tiny African nation of Lesotho were reported to be gathering in neighboring South Africa to talk through a political standoff. The country's prime minister has accused his deputy of planning a coup.

Lesotho's capital of Maseru was reportedly calm on Sunday, a day after soldiers disarmed police in an action Prime Minister Thomas Thabane described as a coup.

Thabane, who fled to South Africa on Saturday, accused his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing of being behind the army's actions.

"I have no reason to absolve him from blame," Thabane told the Reuters news agency, adding that "looking from a distance, he is very active in this show."

Meeting in South Africa

Reports abound that Thabane and Metsing have been invited to talks on Sunday in South Africa involving regional leaders, including South African President Jacob Zuma, to try and resolve the conflict.

The Lesotho army has denied staging a coup, saying it acted against police who were suspected of planning to arm a political faction ahead of a demonstration which had been planned for Monday.

Gunshots were heard on Saturday morning in Maseru as soldiers surrounded police stations and the premier's residence. It later emerged that one police officer had been killed.

Government ministers have said that with Thabane out of the country, his deputy Metsing would lead, according to the constitution. Political tensions between the two, and their respective parties in the country's fragile coalition government, have been running high for the past few months.

Low-ranking soldiers reported it was unclear who was now giving them orders, the AFP news agency said. Soldiers remained at their barracks Sunday.

International concern

The US has said it's "deeply concerned" by the clashes, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki calling on Lesotho officials to "remain committed to peaceful political dialogue and to follow democratic processes."

South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, asked the African Union and Southern African Development Community to work with the people of Lesotho "to maintain law, order and democracy."

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