Lesotho PM urges military action
Lesotho’s exiled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has called on regional leaders to deploy troops to his country to help restore order, his aide says.
Mr Thabane fled to South Africa on Saturday after accusing the army of staging a coup, which it denies.
He has been holding crisis talks with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and other regional officials in Pretoria.
Lesotho, a mountain kingdom, has experienced several coups since independence in 1966.
The latest unrest is understood to be linked to a power struggle between Mr Thabane, who is supported by the police, and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who has the loyalty of the army.
On Monday, Mr Thabane’s opponents dropped plans to protest in the capital, Maseru, over his decision to suspend parliamentary sessions in June.
Reports say Maseru is now calm after soldiers were involved in an exchange of fire outside two police stations on Saturday morning.
One police officer was killed and four wounded after the military intervened, police say.
Lesotho military spokesman Ntlele Ntoi said the military had received intelligence that the police were going to arm factions involved in Monday’s march by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
The LCD is led by Mr Metsing, who has been in an uneasy coalition with Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention since 2012.
The prime minister has hinted that his deputy might have links to the military’s actions – charges denied by his party.
Both Mr Thabane and Mr Metsing have attended talks hosted by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) regional bloc in Pretoria to end the crisis.
Mr Thabane appealed for a peacekeeping force to be deployed to Lesotho, his aide said.
“You can no longer say you can only send a mission. You need an intervention of soldiers,” Samonyane Ntsekele is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.
Lesotho is entirely surrounded by South Africa.
Mr Thabane told the BBC he would return from South Africa “as soon as I know I am not going to get killed”.
Public service minister Motloheloa Phooko said he was acting as prime mnister in the absence of Mr Thabang and Mr Metsing.
He is a member of Mr Metsing’s party.
On Saturday, the prime minister said the army had rendered the government “dysfunctional”, an action that amounted to a coup.
South Africa’s government on Saturday described the situation as “worrying”, with spokesman Clayson Monyela saying the country would not tolerate “unconstitutional change of government”.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has also expressed concern about the “military takeover” and called for respect for “democratic rule”.
The army is understood to have acted after the prime minister attempted to remove its chief, Lt Gen Kennedy Tlai Kamoli.
The army said the general was still in charge, saying the military “supports the democratically elected government of the day,” Reuters news agency reported.