News / Africa

Was it a Coup? Lesotho Unsure Amid Political Crisis

Soldiers walks inside the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, Leotho, Sep. 1, 2014.
Soldiers walks inside the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, Leotho, Sep. 1, 2014.
Anita Powell

The tiny nation of Lesotho was rocked early Saturday by reports of an attempted coup, with soldiers taking over government facilities and police stations in the capital. From the safety of neighboring South Africa, the nation's prime minister said the action was a coup attempt and he feared for his life. But two days later, no figure has emerged to take power.

Whatever happened Saturday in the tiny nation of Lesotho followed the script of a typical African coup d’etat, occurring just months after the prime minister dissolved parliament and a fragile coalition government fell apart.

The government of neighboring South Africa reacted rapidly, saying “by all accounts the activities of the Lesotho Defense Force thus far bear the hallmarks of a coup d’état.”

Lesotho's army Major General Lineo Poopa addresses the media at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, on Sep. 1, 2014.Lesotho's army Major General Lineo Poopa addresses the media at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, on Sep. 1, 2014.
x
Lesotho's army Major General Lineo Poopa addresses the media at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, on Sep. 1, 2014.
Lesotho's army Major General Lineo Poopa addresses the media at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, on Sep. 1, 2014.

But by Monday, no one was so sure. No new leader has emerged and an army spokesman denied there was a coup attempt, saying the military was trying to prevent a police-backed protest scheduled for Monday from turning violent. The spokesman said soldiers had returned to their barracks.

Shaky alliance

That protest against the prime minister was to be led by his deputy and political rival. The two have been locked in an uneasy coalition government since 2012. The deputy prime minister also denied the soldiers’ actions amounted to a coup attempt.  

Whatever happened, talks involving the Southern Southern African Development Community were under way Monday to try to patch things up.  Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing were both involved in the talks.

An aide to Thabane said the prime minister had requested peacekeepers be sent to Lesotho, a small mountain country encircled by South Africa.

Southern Africa analyst Dimpho Motsamai of the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies predicted in July that “a fallout between the parties seems imminent” after the coalition broke down.

She said what happened Saturday was not a coup. “Rather," she says, "it can be called actions of anarchy that are of a treasonable nature."  

"Basically, the commander of the Lesotho Defense Force, the army chief [Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli] was fired on Friday... And what had happened is that the soldiers that are aligned to the commander of the LDF raided several police stations over the weekend and also wanted to raid the residency of the prime minister, and [that's] the reason why he has left the capital," she said. "And this was basically to intimidate the prime minister and try to force him to change the decision to fire him [i.e., the army chief]."

Motsamai said the actions were widely seen as a coup attempt because of Thabane’s claim his life was under threat. She said, though, he has left out a big part of the story.

“He is not talking about the reason why this is happening, which is the wider political context in the country to do with the collapse of the coalition government of which he is part of," she said. "And that is the real issue here at play, and the reason why the insecurity being perpetuated by the army chief is happening.”

Motsamai said SADC will have to continue its mediation talks that started amid the coalition’s collapse earlier this year, but the regional body has another mandate.

“The second issue, though, which is much more primary, I think, and which needs to be established first before any dialogue can happen, is to reestablish the security in Maseru, and and to provide security and support to the prime minister, so that he does not feel like his life is threatened when he goes back into the country," she said. "That will be important, of course, as a way of creating a conducive environment for any political dialogue to be facilitated by South Africa and by SADC.”

It is not the first time Lesotho has suffered a political crisis. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho has had several military coups, most recently in 1998. The nation is a constitutional monarchy, in which the king’s powers are largely ceremonial.

Coup or no coup, one very worrying fact hangs over this tiny nation after this weekend’s events: No one seems to be in charge.  

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: baldur dasche from: botswanaland
September 01, 2014 3:36 PM
A Coup? we're not sure if the army are 'bad guys' or 'good guys' and since it wasn't a state department 'make democracy' project, we won't bne rrecogniziung any new government, or supporting any old government, just yet. Ukraine on the other hand ..... we just had that feelimng yuou know? That Yats and Turchy were the sort of guys with whom we could 'do business' ?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs