Africa

Lesotho's deputy premier takes reins after PM flees 'coup'

Marafaela Mohloboli

Lesotho's Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing has taken charge of the government after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled the country.

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane left for neighbouring South Africa on Saturday after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Maseru. (AFP)

Thabane accused the army of staging a coup.

Thabane, who has been in a fractious coalition government with his political rival Metsing, left for neighbouring South Africa on Saturday after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru.

The army denied trying to force him out of power, saying it had moved against police officers suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the small southern African kingdom.

“Constitutionally, in the absence of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister takes the reins,” Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Selibe Mochoboroane told Reuters.

“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.”

Relations have been stormy between Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party and Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) 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 in the mountainous state of two million people, encircled by South Africa. Metsing later said he would to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

Diplomats in Maseru told Reuters on Saturday the army was largely seen as loyal to the deputy prime minister, while the police force largely supported the prime minister.  – Reuters

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