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Lesotho prime minister rejects retirement offer amid scandal over ex-wife's murder

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2018 photo, Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York.

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is rejecting an offer of an immediate, dignified retirement, telling the Lesotho Times he will not be told when to leave office.

The 80-year-old leader has been under pressure to step down after being linked to the murder of his ex-wife, 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane, three years ago.

Lesotho's coalition government and South African mediators released a joint statement on Monday, saying Thabane's departure should be graceful and that he should get what the statement described as a secure retirement.

It’s unclear if that means Thabane would no longer face legal consequences for his alleged ties to his estranged wife's murder.

The prime minister's current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, has been charged in connection with the shooting death of Lipolelo, two days before Thabane’s inauguration in 2017.

Thabane has previously promised to leave office at the end of July, but the independent newspaper on Thursday quoted the prime minister as saying he wanted to complete some unspecified plans already in place before leaving office.

Thabane has also been criticized for calling up troops last weekend, following his claim that some leaders in law enforcement were seeking to undermine democracy in the small country surrounded by South Africa.

Observers believe the troop deployment to the capital, Maserua, was a last-ditch effort by Thabane to remain in power. A day before he called up the troops, his authority took another hit when the constitutional court ruled against his decision to suspend parliament.