Lesotho: Maseru Heads for Fall-Out With Region Over Killing of Army Leader

Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane (file photo).
18 January 2016

Southern African leaders have called off efforts to mediate Lesotho's political crisis and are set to suspend the country's government from the regional inter-governmental grouping.

This follows resistance by Lesotho's Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, to the publication of the report of a judicial commission which probed the assassination of a military leader who had earlier been fired by Mosisili.

Regional leaders including Mosisili and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa met in Gaborone on Monday for a meeting, hosted by President Ian Khama of Botswana, to receive a report from South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on his mediation efforts in Lesotho on behalf of the regional grouping, the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

SADC leaders last year appointed Botswana's Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi to head a commission to investigate a range of issues, including the killing by soldiers of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), two months after Mosisili removed him.

The commission submitted its findings to SADC in December. However, Mosisili's government is refusing to receive the report, on the grounds that the LDF's special forces commander is challenging the commission in a Maseru court.

A South African journalist earlier this month tweeted apparent excerpts from its draft report, recommending the removal of Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, as well as Mahao's replacement as army commander, Lt. General Tlali Kamoli.

Lesotho's security forces are notorious for their factionalism and political partisanship, and part of the SADC mediation process has involved pressing for wide-ranging security sector reforms.

At the end of Monday's meeting, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported that SADC would "disengage" from the Lesotho mediation and move for the country's suspension at the next SADC summit if its government did not accept the commission report.

In a report from Gaborone, the SABC quoted Zuma as saying that in the absence of consensus on the release of the report, SADC would release it on its own. A SADC communique is expected on Tuesday.

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