Lesotho Coalition Endures as South Africa Fears Army Buildup

South Africa said it was concerned about “unusual movements” of troops in the capital of neighboring Lesotho as members of that nation’s government agreed to continue their three-party coalition.

The government has “noted with grave concern the unusual movements of the Lesotho Defence Force Units in the capital, Maseru,” South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said yesterday in a statement. “The South African government appeals to all the political leaders in the Kingdom to refrain from any actions that may undermine peace, security and stability in the country.”

The leaders of Lesotho’s three coalition parties plan to review the agreement they signed when forming a government after elections in May 2012, Thesele Maseribane, head of Basotho National Party, told MoAfrika FM Radio in the capital, Maseru yesterday. The revised document will be signed on June 25 and submitted to the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, he said.

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s press secretary yesterday denied that a coup had taken place amid reports of a military buildup in Maseru. South Africa reiterated the African Union’s position that an “unconstitutional change” of government would not be tolerated.

SADC Initiative

The South African government also noted SADC initiatives to mediate Lesotho’s political challenges, after Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who is also leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, said last week that he was pulling out of the coalition.

Lesotho supplies water to the South African industrial hub of Gauteng and is an enclave within its bigger neighbor. The country also earns foreign exchange from tourism and exports of mohair and supplies labor to South African mines.

The former British protectorate, which won its independence in 1966, has previously suffered military coups. South Africa’s apartheid government backed an army takeover in 1986, before a counter coup in 1991 enabled elections to be held in 1993.

In 1998, South Africa dispatched more than 600 troops to the mountainous kingdom of 2 million people as part of a regional effort to quell a mutiny by junior army officers. More than 60 people were killed including South African soldiers.

“No neighboring country will be allowed to go the route of instability,” Clayson Monyela, a South African government spokesman, said in comments broadcast by Johannesburg’s Talk Radio 702.

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