Lesotho march cancelled after ‘coup’

Thomas Thabane

Thomas Thabane says he will return to Lesotho

A demonstration by opponents of Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has been called off after he fled on Saturday, saying the military wanted to oust him.

The army has denied staging a coup and says it has returned to barracks.

A military spokesman said it had disarmed the police forces because they were planning to arm “fanatics” in Monday’s march.

Mr Thabane fled to regional power South Africa, which held emergency talks on the situation on Sunday.

There is no news of what emerged from the talks between Mr Thabane, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and other regional leaders.

Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, has experienced several military takeovers since independence in 1966.

Basuto Huts in Pitseng, Lesotho (file picture)Lesotho is a largely rural country dominated by mountains and surrounded on all sides 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”.

Reports say the capital, Maseru, is now calm.

One police officer was killed and four wounded after the military intervened, police say.

Mr Thabane has headed a unity government since elections in May 2012, but suspended parliament sessions in June amid feuding in his coalition.

Mr Thabane 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”.

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.