Lesotho PM flees to South Africa, for his lifetext_fields
Maseru: Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane said he has fled for his life across the border to South Africa, accusing the military of seizing power in a coup and leaving the country in flux.
In a pre-dawn move, the army seized control of key police facilities in the capital Maseru, including the force headquarters, in what Thabane said was a highly choreographed attempt to oust him from power.
“I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal,” Thabane told media. “I will return as soon as my life is not in danger. I will not go back to Lesotho to get killed.” But the military rejected the suggestion of a coup as a “baseless allegation”.
Police said that dozens of heavily armed soldiers arrived in armoured personnel carriers as they were changing shifts, seizing an arsenal of semi-automatic and automatic weapons. One soldier and four police were seriously wounded in gunfights.
Local intelligence officers told reporters that the coup was led by Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who was recently ordered to renounce command of the Lesotho Defence Forces.
“This issue of always alleging that the Lesotho defence force is mounting a coup d’etat is not a new thing,” said Major Ntlele Ntoi, a military spokesman, adding that Kamoli remains in his post.
Lesotho’s neighbour, regional power South Africa, and the Commonwealth warned the Lesotho Defence Forces that such action “shall not be tolerated”. The United States voiced concern at the security clashes and called for “peaceful dialogue” in Lesotho while making no direct mention of an attempt to oust Thabane.
Lesotho has suffered a series of coups since independence in 1966, and the political temperature in the country has been rising rapidly in recent months.