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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs