Lesotho: Breakthrough in Political Crisis?

Lesotho Parliament building

Cape Town — Mediators in Lesotho’s political crisis have scheduled a “major announcement” on efforts to arrange new elections, reopen Parliament and stabilise security.

The office of South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the lead facilitator in talks brokered by regional leaders, released a statement in Maseru on Wednesday evening saying Ramaphosa would join Basotho political leaders in making the announcement on Thursday afternoon.

The release of the statement suggests either that the mediation has achieved a breakthrough, or that Ramaphosa is seeking to nudge the country’s politicians to settle their differences. Ramaphosa has spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Maseru, meeting political leaders and King Letsie III.

Earlier on Wednesday, Letsie urged Basotho to work for peace “by avoiding acts or speaking things that destroy peace,” said the Lesotho News Agency. He was speaking at a service organised by the Anglican Church in Lesotho.

Also on Wednesday, Ramaphosa called for a probe into shootings in Maseru on Tuesday night, reported the South African Press Association. Agence France-Presse had reported that two policemen were wounded on Tuesday night in a shoot-out between police and the army.

Parties in Lesotho’s coalition government have been at odds for some months, and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended Parliament in June, prompting accusations that he was trying to avoid a no-confidence vote which would eject him from power.

The police and the military have also been at odds, with factions in both forces supporting different political leaders. Military intervention against the police late in August forced Thabane to flee the country.

He returned after regional leaders set up a dialogue and secured agreement that the country would bring forward elections and reconvene Parliament. Ramaphosa’s mediation has been aimed at securing agreement on dates for reconvening the legislature and holding new elections, as well as bringing the security forces under the full control of the government.

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