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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid