Lesotho’s army chief shot dead by rival soldiers
Maseru, Lesotho | AFP | Lesotho’s army commander was shot dead by rival officers at a military barracks on Tuesday, an official told AFP, in an apparent assassination set to revive instability in the mountainous African kingdom.
“The commander (Khoantle Motsomotso) has been declared dead,” a military official who declined to be named told AFP, adding that two senior officers behind the attack were also killed in the shoot-out.
The military official said the two senior officers had been denied access to Motsomotso’s office by army guards.
“They attempted to forcefully enter, there was a shoot-out between the two, their companion who has since fled, and the commander’s bodyguards,” he said.
SABC reported hours later that South African President Jacob Zuma had called for calm following the assassination. (video below)
A new coalition government took office in Lesotho in June under Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who vowed to bring peace to the country that has been rocked by a series of political upheavals.
Thabane, 78, previously served as premier after the 2012 elections but was forced to flee to South Africa — which entirely surrounds landlocked Lesotho — following an attempted military coup two years later.
In August 2014, soldiers led by sacked army chief General Tlali Kamoli seized control of police headquarters after Thabane had suspended parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.
– Regional intervention –
Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party won snap elections on June 3 but failed to get an outright majority, leading it to negotiate joint rule with three other parties.
Known as Africa’s Switzerland because of its mountainous scenery, Lesotho has a long history of political instability having also suffered coups in 1986 and 1991.
— Lesotho Times (@Lestimes) September 5, 2017
— Sophie Mokoena (@Sophie_Mokoena) September 5, 2017
Lesotho is important to South Africa as it provides much of the water supply to Johannesburg, while the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) has worked to promote stability.
“I am hoping that we can have a peaceful Lesotho,” South African President Jacob Zuma told reporters from a summit in China.
“From the SADC point of view, we thought that the Lesotho problem ended and this is what we were promised by the new prime minister who said that now there is going to be peace now in Lesotho.
“Actions that people take there must not lead into another situation.”
Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Letsie III, who has no formal power.
The country was a British protectorate known as Basutoland before independence in 1966.
The June election was the third since 2012 as years of political friction have hampered attempts to fight dire poverty and a high HIV infection rate.