Famo gangs in fresh shoot-out

MASERU – Three members of warring famo music gangs appeared in court last Tuesday to answer charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms.

Police said the three were involved in a shoot-out near the Mafeteng Correctional Services in Mafeteng, about 80km south of Maseru.

Phakiso Shale, also known as Piololo, and Tšokolo Sello, from the Seakhi group and Motseki Khofu, also known as Mahloko, from the Terene group, appeared before the Mafeteng magistrate’s court in connection with the shootout.

They are still in custody after they failed to pay M2 000 bail deposit each.

The incident has raised fears of fresh hostilities, police said on Monday.

It comes barely three months after a leader of one of the groups, Daniel Rampipi, was gunned down in the raging gang war.

Khofu had just been released from jail on bail for allegedly murdering Rampipi in January prior to the latest incident.

“It is not clear what exactly caused the fight between the three suspects.

“They all said they were fighting because the other one belonged to another group,” Masupha Masupha, the police spokesman, said of last week’s shootout.

Masupha said after hearing gunshots police rushed to the scene and found members of the two rival groups shooting at each other.

Most of the suspects fled when they saw the police coming but the three men were not so lucky.

Although police have tried investigating cases involving the two groups over the years, most suspects of the decades-long violence remain at large.

Leaders of the famo gangs were not available for comment at the time of going to press.

But the resurgent violence presents a return to the dark days when this popular music became associated more with violence than merriment.

The two groups have for long been suspected to be at the centre of an orgy of often fatal clashes before police intervened and forced the groups to agree to peaceful co-existence in October.

Rampipi had represented the Seakhi at the October peace meeting while Sarele Sello, represented the Terene group, which is blamed by its rivals of killing Rampipi.

Before the October ceasefire agreement, war between the two famo rival groups had become as legendary as the music genre itself.

In one incident that provoked police intervention last year, a rival gang sprayed bullets on people attending a night-vigil of a famo artist who had been shot dead.

Apart from markets and professional jealous, some critics attribute the violence to offensive lyrics increasingly being used by the famo artists.

In some instances, perpetrators of violence have defended their actions by claiming that they were insulted and mocked in the songs.

Police, weary of handling famo-related murders, say the violence has to end, whatever the causes.

“Members of these two groups should stop the wars,” said Masupha.

At least 100 famo musicians and producers have died in gang violence over the past 12 months, according to the police.

This is in spite of a peace deal which was brokered by the police in October last year.

The peace deal however appears to be faltering following last week’s shootout.

Producers, fans and family members have also butchered in cold-blooded murders.

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