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Lesotho king: murder of army commander an ’embarrassment’

Lesotho army chief Motsomotso was shot dead

Malibamatso, Lesotho | AFP |  Lesotho’s King Letsie III said Thursday the killing of the country’s army commander last week had caused “embarrassment” and”scared”the small mountain kingdom.

Khoantle Motsomotso was gunned down by rival officers as the struggle between the tiny nation’s military and politicians continues to be marred by violence.

Letsie, who rarely makes public speeches, was addressing mourners at the funeral of the army commander, who was attacked at a military barracks in the capital Maseru on Tuesday.

Flanked by army chiefs from several neighbouring countries, the king said the killing had “embarrassed us as a nation… making us a laughing stock of other nations”.

“Khoantle’s death has scared us all,” he said.

The funeral was held in a village around 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Maseru and attended by hundreds of mourners.

The king, a highly respected figure across all political spectrums, urged leaders to stop using the army for “dirty” work.

“My plea to us all leaders is to stop sneaking around, approaching soldiers to do our dirty political missions while we promise them all sorts of things,” he said.

“Let us stop engaging in activities that throw this country into disarray.”

He urged the army to support the new acting commander, Major General Lineo Poopa to “work hard to get the army out of these serious, consistent problems”.

The shootout took place just two months after an election won by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, which was largely expected to usher in a new era of stability.

Critics accuse the military of favouring Thabane’s old rival Pakalitha Mosisili who ruled from 1998 to 2012 and 2015 to 2017.

Motsomotso was the second Lesotho army chief to be assassinated by fellow soldiers in two years.

The two officers who shot Motsomotso were later shot dead by his bodyguards.

The officers, Tefo Hashatsi and Bulane Sechele, were among soldiers that Southern African Development Community (SADC) hads said should be prosecuted for the murder of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015.

Letsie is a constitutional monarch who has no role in the political affairs of the impoverished nation engulfed by by South Africa.

The regional SADC, which has been leading peace talks in Lesotho, will meet Friday in Pretoria to discuss the latest developments is the country.


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