With the threat of prosecution hanging over the heads of soldiers and officers who have been linked to Lesotho’s attempted coup last year, the Southern African Development Community has advised the new government to allow the law to take its course.
The SADC’ s electoral observer mission head, Maite N koana-Mashabane, offered this advice yesterday as opposition parties closed in on the ruling All Basotho Convention’s lead in vote counting of the national election.
The polling on Saturday came two years ahead of a scheduled election after Prime Minister Tom Thabane fled to South Africa as military leaders tried to overthrow him.
After casting his vote on Saturday, Thabane vowed to prosecute the soldiers who tried to oust him in September. Sections of the army, including the special forces, are said to have pledged their allegiance to his archrival and Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.
Troops tried to overthrowThabane after he fired the head of the army, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli. Prior to the attempted coup, Thabane dissolved parliament in June ahead of a vote of no confidence in him. The vote of no confidence was itself preceded by Thabane’s call that Metsing be investigated for corruption.
As Metsing’s supporters took to the streets of Maseru yesterday, the police – still loyal to Thabane – cordoned off streets.
Nkoana-Mashabane said the government of Lesotho had to fulfil its executive duty.
She said: “It’s important there is a clear separation of powers. The Basotho government must allow due judicial processes and the judiciary to do what they do best, maintain law and order in the country.”
She said the police had a duty to protect the public, and the army a duty to keep the country secure.
She said: “Peace and security begins with Lesotho. The buck starts and stops with it. The [leaders] need to rise above their differences and ensure peace and stability.”
There could be “no agendas”, she said.
The African Union’s election observation mission head, Raila Odinga, did not mince words, stressing the politicisation of the security services and the tensions between the army and police despite an existing peace accord.
He said: “The root causes of the political and security challenges need to be comprehensively addressed and done so immediately. The fact that the judiciary has safety concerns in light of the security situation is alarming.”
He called on politicians to immediately desist from “interfering with and involving the security agencies in party political agendas”.
He said: “This needs to be dealt with immediately.”