Category Archives: Africa – International

SADC talks planned on Lesotho crisis

Mail and Guardian

Talks between SADC officials are expected to resume on Monday to discuss a peaceful solution to Lesotho’s attempted military coup.

President Jacob Zuma. (David Harrison, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma was due to meet Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on Monday to try to resolve a political crisis after an apparent coup there over the weekend, a government spokesperson said.

Thabane fled Lesotho for South Africa early on Saturday, hours before the army surrounded his residence and overran police stations in the capital Maseru, in what the prime minister called a coup by the military.

Lesotho’s army denied seeking to oust Thabane, saying it moved against police suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the southern African nation. One police officer was shot dead and four others wounded.

Diplomats said the unrest stems from a power struggle between Thabane, who is supported by the police and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who has the loyalty of the army.

Tension had risen since Thabane suspended Parliament in June amid feuding in the two-year-old governing coalition.

Acting Prime Minster
Lesotho’s minister of public service, Motloheloa Phooko, told AFP on Monday that he was the country’s acting prime minister, after the elected premier fled the country during an apparent coup.

“I am acting prime minister,” the minister said from Maseru, citing “cabinet protocol” for his appointment while the prime minister and deputy prime minister are in South Africa. Phooko is a member of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy party, which forms an acrimonious coalition government with Prime Minister Tom Thabane.

The party has denied any role in the alleged coup.

Further raids on police
In Maseru, the atmosphere was quiet but tense on Monday after the police commissioner said soldiers had carried out further raids on police installations and even officers’ homes, taking away weapons and uniforms.

Commissioner Khothatso Ts’ooana told Public Choice FM radio station that this meant police would not be able to carry out their normal duties. Police stations were deserted and some officers had fled over the border into South Africa.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) defence and security troika, which includes officials from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, met Thabane through the night to try to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

Talks were due to resume on Monday but it was not clear if Metsing, who Thabane says orchestrated the coup, would be in Pretoria to take part.

‘Find a peaceful solution’
“President Zuma will meet the Lesotho prime minister this [Monday] morning. It is part of the decision taken by the SADC troika on Sunday,” said Nelson Kgwete, a spokesperson for South Africa’s Department for International Relations and Co-operation.

“It was resolved that all parties should be consulted to find a peaceful solution,” Kgwete added.

Thabane told Reuters on Saturday he had fired the army commander, Lieutenant-General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli, and appointed Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao to replace him. But on Sunday Kamoli said he was still in charge of the military.

Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Force refuted claims that it was involved in foiling the alleged attempted coup. Spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said that as “far as [he] was aware” there had been “none whatsoever”, in terms of reports that South African soldiers had assisted in bringing down an alleged mutiny.

Lesotho, a mountainous state of two million people encircled by South Africa, has suffered a several coups since independence from Britain in 1966. At least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting in 1998, when Pretoria sent in troops.

Besides textile exports and a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho’s other big earner is hydropower and water, both of which it supplies to neighbour South Africa. – Reuters  M&G

Kenya – Kenyatta to audit civil service and remove “ghost workers”


Kenya registers civil servants to target ‘ghost workers’

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the nation at Nyayo national stadium in Nairobi, 1 June 2014Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged to make the public service more efficient

Kenya has started biometrically registering all civil servants in an attempt to remove “ghost workers” from the government’s payroll.

Employees who failed to register over the next two weeks would no longer be paid, a government statement said.

The government suspects that thousands of people continue to receive salaries after leaving the civil service.

President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to curb corruption in the public service after taking office in 2013.

An audit earlier this year found that at least $1m (£700,000) a month was lost in payments to “ghost workers” and other financial malpractice.

The government suspects that salaries continue to be deposited into bank accounts, even after a person dies or leaves the public service, reports the BBC’s Wanyama Chebusiri from the capital, Nairobi.

All public servants are required to present themselves over the next two weeks at identification centres to ensure their data is captured through the biometric registration exercise, a government statement said.

Anyone who failed to do so without a valid excuse would be eliminated from the payroll, it said.

“This exercise will contribute significantly to the rationalization of the public service by determining the actual numbers of public servants and will also be used to cleanse the payroll at both levels of government- hence bring a stop to the issue of ‘ghost workers’,” said Anne Waiguru, the cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning.

See also report from March:

Standard Digital

Audit to clear ghost workers from government payroll

By JACKSON OKOTHUpdated Tuesday, March 11th 2014 at 00:00 GMT +3

Chairman of the Budget and Appropriation Committee Mutava Musyimi (right) explains a point to chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Sarah Serem at KICC Monday during the national dialogue on how to contain the public wage bill. [PHOTO: /STANDARD]


NAIROBI, KENYA: The Ministry of Devolution and Planning is carrying out a comprehensive audit of the entire Government payroll system in order to clear all ghost workers.

This comes amid growing concerns that Kenya’s ballooning public sector wage bill has reached unsustainable level.

Available figures indicate that Kenya spends over 55 per cent of its revenue, which is about 13 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to pay salaries to public servants.

“If we continue with this trend, a large part of our resources will be dedicated to maintaining the public service. But we also have other priorities such as investing in irrigation to achieve food security and building infrastructure to reduce cost of doing business,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He made these remarks while launching a national dialogue on how to contain the public wage bill during a two-day forum that began yesterday at the KICC.

A recent report by the auditor general disclosed that some employees with county governments are earning more than their counterparts working for the National Government.

Introduction of the devolved system of Government had pushed up the public sector wage bill by Sh15.4 billion as at December 2013.


There is also duplication as county governments hire staff with similar skills to those seconded by the National Government,” said Ann Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning.

Earlier findings by the Devolution and Planning Ministry, in an audit covering some eight ministries, had shown some workers who left the service either through retirement, death or resignation were still drawing salaries while other employees had more than one payslip.

The Government is said to be losing close to Sh100 million per month to ghost workers and other malpractices, audits reveal.

“We need to do a comprehensive job evaluation of all State officers using GDP, revenue and government spending as parameters. The most challenging task would be to link salaries and benefits paid to civil servants with performance of the economy,” said Sarah Serem, chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

While Serem works on a part time basis at the SRC, she has proposed that her sitting allowances being slashed 10 per cent. This is in response to a 20 per cent pay cut taken by President Kenyatta and his deputy as well as a 10 per cent pay cut by Cabinet secretaries.

“We need to review the various cadres, ratios and support staff that is not engaged, leaving only the technical staff,” said Serem.  Standard

Lesotho – opposition march called off in wake of “coup” crisis


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 South Africa, where he held emergency talks on the situation on Sunday.

There is no news of what emerged from the talks between Mr Thabane, his two deputies and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma.

Lesotho, a mountain kingdom 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 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 Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa 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.

Mr Metsing, who was involved in the talks with Mr Thabane and South Africa’s President Zuma on Sunday, has not commented on those allegations but has also denied there was a coup.

He told the AFP news agency that under the constitution, a member of his party, Motloheloa Phooko, was now running the country, because both himself and the prime minister were abroad.


Mr Thabane suspended parliamentary sessions in June ahead of a confidence vote in his administration.

Monday’s march had been intended to demand that parliament reopen.

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.



South Sudan – MSF says cholera down but malaria and parasitic disease up


No respite for South Sudan: cholera down but malaria and parasitic disease up – MSF

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

A woman waits in a queue to collect water at the Yusuf Batil refugee camp in Upper Nile, South Sudan, July 4, 2012. REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian


NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – South Sudan’s cholera crisis is waning but humanitarian workers are now battling increased cases of malaria and the parasitic disease kala azar, with children most affected.

Conflict between the government and rebels has displaced 1.7 million people, or one in seven of the population, since December, with famine on the horizon.

At least 10,000 people have been killed since the fighting erupted in late 2013, pitting President Salva Kiir’s government forces against supporters of Riek Machar, his former deputy and longtime political rival.

While a cholera outbreak appears to be under control, other diseases are plaguing South Sudan’s hungry, displaced people.

The latest emergency operations are focusing on malaria and kala azar, a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of a sandfly which is usually fatal without treatment. MSF treated about 200 people for kala azar in Upper Nile State, one of the areas worst hit by fighting, in July.

With the onset of the rains producing stagnant water for mosquitoes, there has also been a “spike” in malaria, MSF said.

MSF treated almost 700 malaria cases in Pamat and Aweil, the capital of northern Bahr el Ghazal State in July, mostly pregnant women and children. There are tens of thousands of displaced people in the area, which is to the west of the main oil-rich conflict zone.

The appalling conditions in which the 1.1 million internally displaced live increases their vulnerability.

“Camps for the displaced have been turned into flood zones, forcing people to live in virtual swamps without adequate supply of clean drinking water, latrines or sanitation,” MSF said.


Between April and mid-August, 5,868 cholera cases have been reported, including 130 deaths, the United Nations said in its latest update.

“MSF is now seeing a decline in cholera cases in many areas,” the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.

MSF has closed two of its cholera treatment centres in the capital, Juba, where the outbreak began, while maintaining one treatment unit.

The displaced camp inside the United Nations base in Bentiu, Unity State, is one of the largest, sheltering 45,000 people. Most of the shelters are flooded or damaged, MSF said, with people wading knee-deep through muddy water.

“Although mortality rates in the camp have been reduced, at least one child is still dying every day,” it said. “Many of these deaths are preventable and are directly attributed to inadequate living conditions.”

Malnourished children easily fall prey to malaria because their bodies are so weak.  AlertNet

DR Congo-Rwanda – accusations that DRC officers wives involved in business with Hutu rebels

News of Rwanda/allAfrica

Rwanda: FDLR Generating U.S. $71 Million From Businesses With Wives of DRC Officers

Photo: Radio Okapi

Rwandan soldiers in DR Congo (file photo).

Rwandan FDLR rebels are making millions of dollars annually with help from Congolese army units in the east of the massive country, says a classified MONUSCO document sent to New York.

The militia group calling itself the democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda or FDLR maintains a large business empire managed by ICC fugitive SylvestreMudacumura and Defence Commissioner, AugustinNsengimana.

To operate without any problems, Congolese army officers provide safe passage for goods which have been supplied to wives of the Congolese officers by FDLR contacts. The Congolese military officers are on the battle-front, but their wives are managing booming businesses.

These never-before details have been compiled in a classified investigation sent to New York last month by the UN mission in DR Congo – or MONUSCO.The MONUSCO document was prepared by the ‘Joint Mission Analysis Cell’ (JMAC) and titled at top in red as “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL”.

For North Kivu, the FDLR team in charge of making money is called “Miroir” – now based in the Kasugho area (approx. 70 km West of Lubero-Centre), where gold mining is pursued. For South Kivu, unit in charge of money generation, previously known as “Lunette”, was dissolved and was replaced by three liaison offices.

These are called Antennas, says the report.Apart from liaison functions, according to the MONUSCO document, those antennas also play a role in trafficking. The FDLR men responsible for these operations are Col Bonheur in Burhinyi (Mwenga), Lt Maurice in Mulenge (Uvira), and Adjutant Kidumu in Kanyantende (Mwenga).

In North Kivu province alone, the militia – whose members executed the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and fled to Congo, has a group in charge of business totalling about 200 combatants.

“A general estimate (of FDLR revenues) arrives at several millions of US dollars. Much of the income is generated through taxation,” says the report.

“Profits are shared between FDLR, FARDC, and local Mayi-Mayi groups. ICCN estimates that illegal fishing and charcoal production annually generate around U$$32million and US$35 million respectively.”

The ICCN is the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature – which is a government agency – also managing the virunga national park, whose director Emmanuel de Merode was ambushed in April by suspected FDLR rebels.

According to the MONUSCO document, an estimated 92% of charcoal used in North Kivu comes from the Virunga National Park supplied by the FDLR. Approximately two FUSO trucks drive down the Kikuku – Sake axis every day, carrying 300 charcoal bags per truck on average.

FDLR sells each bag at around US $15 to businessmen, who, once in Goma, sell them at US $25 to US $30 each. The gross selling price could be around US $9,000 per day. The detail price could be up to US $18,000. Two other trucks are also supplying the Rutshuru – Goma axis each day, generating between US $8 to US $10 for each bag on the FDLR side. The gross selling price could be around US $4,800 to US $9,600 per day.

The FDLR illicit trade involves timber, hemp, illegal fishing, poaching and gold mining.When combined with illegal taxation, the total revenue from these sectorstotals at least $71million annually.

Regarding the hemp (urumogi in Kinyarwanda) production, in the border area of Lubero-Walikaleand in Ruthsuru, enormous amounts of ‘chanvre’ – the local variety of cannabis – are cultivated.The FDLR rebels controls most of the production. The most important fields are situated in the villages of Ikobo, Lusamambo, Bukumbirwa, Buleusa, Miriki, LuofuLusoghaKanandavuko,Lueshe, Mirangi and Kateku.

Every harvest period approximately 10 tons of hemp is being produced. In a year, there are four production seasons. The biggest trade center is located in Miriki on the border of the Luberoand Walikale territories – eastern DRC.

“The principal buyers are wives of FARDC officers. (The FARDC controls the route to Goma via Rutshuru),” says the classified report obtained by News of Rwanda.

“The officers’ wives are the ‘négociants’ (traders) who buy the drugs; their husbands facilitate the transport. The FARDC has been involved in the drugs traffic for a long time.”

The document adds: “The transport is organized during the night. Youngsters, escorted by FDLR elements, carry bags of 60 kilos of hemp on their backs from the villages to the road. The drugs are loaded on trucks and hidden beneath layers of manioc bags. The trucks leave from the towns of Kayna, Kanyabayonga or Kirumba.”

FDLR resource mobilization also focuses on illegal taxation in some mining sites in Itombwe, Burhinyi, and Mukungwe, as well as on small-scale gold trade, the taxation of trade, charcoal, and the culture/exportation of hemp to Uvira – on to Burundi, and Tanzania through Mulenge, and Sange.

FDLR commanders in charge of business operations have reportedly established links with Butembo gold traders, which export their products through Kasindi border post, the third border post in North Kivu. FDLR money-making teams work with officers within FARDC 85th Military Sector hierarchy for obtaining weapons and ammunition supply.

Since November 2013, the ICCN has recorded the killing of five elephants in the general area of Kapopi (North West of Kiwanja) – several kilometres from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Poaching networks are involving local poachers, FDLR and FARDC officers.

The classified brief says: “For instance in Kagando area (12 km N of Tongo), the wife of a local FDLR officer receives weapons from FARDC Lt Col Zaire Ndarihoranya (ethnic Hutu from Tongo, ex RCD-G, 1003rd Regt Cmdr in Beni up to January 2014, then called to Kinshasa). Weapons are handed over to a poacher group. When this group has collected enough ivory, the product is sent to Tongo, then Sake, where it is secured and later exported.”

Lesotho – coup or no coup and the role of the SANDF

Mail and Guardian

SADC, SANDF and the Lesotho coup that wasn’t

01 Sep 2014

SA has called a SADC meeting to discuss the recent Lesotho “coup”, while the SANDF has refuted claims that it was involved in foiling the attempt.

The South African National Defence Force has refuted claims that it was involved in foiling the alleged attempted coup. (AFP)

Foreign ministers of three Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states will be discussing the recent events in Lesotho, the international relations and co-operation department (Dirco) confirmed on Sunday.

“Foreign ministers of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia are meeting tonight in Pretoria to talk about matters of Lesotho,” said Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela. He said South Africa called the meeting in its capacity as the chairing nation of the SADC’s organ on politics and defence.

Monyela could not confirm an apparent meeting between President Jacob Zuma, Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and members of the kingdom’s coalition government. According to the Associated Press, Thabane was meeting with leaders of his country’s coalition government and Zuma to discuss the recent unrest.

On Saturday, Thabane told the BBC he had 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. “I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal,” Thabane reportedly said. “I will return as soon as my life is not in danger … I will not go back to Lesotho to get killed.”

Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) refuted claims that it was involved in foiling the alleged attempted coup. Spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said that as “far as [he] was aware” there had been “none whatsoever”, in terms of reports that South African soldiers had assisted in bringing down an alleged mutiny.

Dlamini was responding to an article in the Sunday Times with the headline “SA special forces foil Lesotho coup”. The article reported that SANDF troops – based in Phalaborwa, Limpopo – had entered the country on Friday, along with a group of diplomats.

The article said a pre-dawn raid had then been carried out on Saturday in Maseru to assist Thabane in fleeing the country. “I’m not sure that the reports from the Sunday Times are accurate. This matter is at a much higher level than just the defence force,” said Dlamini. He said the matter would be dealt with by the SADC and that the South African government continued to “monitor the situation”.

PM flees Lesotho
Meanwhile, Thabane accused Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of helping to plan the attempted coup.

Metsing took charge of the government once Thabane had fled the country after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru.

Gunshots were heard in the capital on Saturday, where one policeman was shot dead and four others wounded, said senior police superintendent Mofokeng Kolo. But the army denied trying to force out Thabane, saying it had moved against police suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the small southern African kingdom.

Diplomats in Maseru told Reuters the army was largely seen as loyal to the deputy prime minister and the police force mostly supported the prime minister.

South Africa condemned the army’s actions and invited the deputy prime minister to talks, Lesotho’s Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Selibe Mochoboroane told Reuters. He did not specify who the talks would be with.

“Constitutionally, in the absence of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister takes the reins,” said Mochoboroane, who is also the spokesperson for Metsing’s party.

“For now there hasn’t been any arrangement, but it goes without saying the deputy prime minister will still oversee other issues that need to be taken care of until the prime minister returns,” he added. On Saturday, Mochoboroane echoed the army’s assurance that no coup had taken place.

Fractious coalition
Thabane, who is expected to be back in Maseru soon, said the two would not be holding talks in South Africa.

“I have no much reason to absolve him from blame,” Thabane told Reuters. “Looking from a distance, he is very active in this show.”

Relations have been stormy between Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party and Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy group, which formed a coalition with another party after elections in 2012.

Thabane dissolved parliament in June to avoid a no-confidence vote against him amid feuding among the ruling parties. Metsing later said he would form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

The African Union said on Sunday it would not tolerate any illegal seizure of power.

Thabane told Reuters on Saturday that he had fired an army commander, Lieutenant-General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli, and appointed Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao to replace him. But on Sunday Kamoli said he was still in charge of the military.

“I haven’t gotten any formal letter from anybody and that is to say that I am still the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force,” said Kamoli.

Lesotho, a mountainous state of two million people encircled by South Africa, has undergone a number of military coups since independence from Britain in 1966. At least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting in 1998. – Sapa, Reuters M&G

Lesotho – bid to assassinate Defence Force head fails; deputy PM says no coup

Mail and Guardian
The attempted assassination of a military commander has plunged Lesotho into turmoil after an apparent coup that forced the prime minister to flee.

As some life returned to Lesotho’s streets on Sunday, it was not clear who was in charge of this beautiful but poor mountainous kingdom of two million people. (AFP)
Gunmen attacked the Maseru home of Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, district police commissioner Mofokeng Kolo confirmed, deepening a seeming battle for control of the military.

The pre-dawn attack was reportedly unsuccessful, killing only a dog, but Mahao’s whereabouts is now unknown.

Mahao had been appointed head of the Lesotho Defence Force by prime minister Tom Thabane shortly before he was forced to flee to South Africa in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Previous commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli was accused of leading a coup attempt against him, a charge the military denies.

Low-ranking soldiers said it was unclear who was now giving their orders. They remain confined to barracks.

As some life returned to Lesotho’s streets on Sunday, it was not clear who was in charge of this beautiful but poor mountainous kingdom of two million people.

Thabane is across the South African border in Ladybrand, unable or unwilling to return.

“I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces and that is illegal,” he said.

No coup
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mothejoa Metsing told AFP he left Lesotho for talks in Pretoria.

“It is through the invitation of the South African president,” who currently heads regional bloc the Southern African Development Community’s security committee, Metsing said.

“There is no coup in Lesotho,” he insisted.

In the absence of the premier and his deputy, constitutionally, the Minister of Public Service Motloheloa Phooko is in charge of the kingdom, he added.

Phooko is a member of Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy party, which was in an uneasy coalition government with Thabane.

The party has also denied allegations of involvement in the coup.

Police struggled to regroup after a deadly attack by the military on key installations on Saturday, which resulted in an arsenal of weapons being seized.

District police commissioner Mofokeng Kolo confirmed that one officer died in the attack.

Stocked up
Twenty-four hours later the police headquarters was still abandoned and most officers remained in hiding.

Amid the political turmoil, Maseru’s residents stocked up on food and basic necessities.

“People are worried what will happen, because ‘no work, no pay’,” said fruit and vegetable vendor Kamele Pakisi. “There is no stability.”

Worshippers filled the city’s cathedral as normal but many feared for what lies ahead, convinced this spasm of political violence was not yet over.

There is concern that a mass anti-government demonstration that was planned for Monday could bring a new chapter of violence.

“We are not afraid of today, we are just afraid of tomorrow,” said Mphasa Chonela.

The police have called for the march not to go ahead, but critics question whether that is an attempt to protect the prime minister from criticism.

Peaceful dialogue’
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.

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.

The prime minister suspended Parliament in June, forcing divisions in the ruling coalition to the fore.

South Africa has backed Thabane and could yet decide to intervene directly to return him to power.

In 1998 South Africa launched an ill-fated invasion of Lesotho when the “kingdom in the sky” was in the midst of another political crisis, reducing the capital to rubble. – Sapa-AFP