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Southern African Countries to Help Restore Order in Lesotho

  • VOA News

A worker hangs posters displaying newspaper headlines, in the capital Maseru, August 31, 2014.

A worker hangs posters displaying newspaper headlines, in the capital Maseru, August 31, 2014.

Southern African countries say they will send an envoy and an observer team to Lesotho following an apparent coup attempt over the weekend.

Officials from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) made the announcement during an emergency meeting in Pretoria Monday with Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and several other officials.

During the talks, led by South African President Jacob Zuma, the participants agreed on a timeline to end the suspension of parliament, a key demand of rival parties.

SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax told VOA the situation in Lesotho was "unfortunate" and emerged as leaders dealt with operating under a coalition government for the first time since the country gained independence in 1966.

She said the SADC is pushing the leaders to work together and that calm has returned.

“We are encouraging them to make sure that everything goes back to normal, and that is happening as we speak. The situation has normalized now,” said Tax.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has also stressed the need for political cooperation.

She said in a statement late Monday that multiparty democracy is important for Lesotho's political and economic development, and that "any threat to that model" would be a setback for the nation and the region.

Prime Minister Thabane fled Lesotho on Saturday before the military surrounded his residence and that of a top police official, and then disarmed two police stations in the capital, Maseru.

Thabane accused the army and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of seeking to oust him from power.

The military accused elements of the police force of planning to arm political radicals ahead of an anti-government protest.

An aide to Thabane said the prime minister is now returning to Lesotho.

Lesotho, a small, mountainous country encircled by South Africa, has gone through several coups since it won independence from Britain in 1966.