lesotho explainer

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  1. 1. Turmoil in Lesotho A simple guide
  2. 2. Lesotho political divisions Pro and anti-monarchical Party political Religious (Catholic and Protestant) Antagonism between the army and police Antagonism between army factions
  3. 3. History Lesothos modern political architecture is created during the campaign for independence from Great Britain. The first significant political party in modern history is the Basutoland African Congress, which is later named the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP). It seeks self-rule, while attempting to keep neighbouring South Africas policies of racial segregation at bay.
  4. 4. Political Structure Once it becomes clear that independence is a possibility, a host of other parties spring up to participate in a national legislature and the BCP itself begins to splinter. The Basutoland National Party (BNP) is set up by a conservative faction of the BCP led by Chief Leabua Jonathan.
  5. 5. Divisions In elections for the National Legislature in 1960, the Basutoland Congress Party takes 32 of the 40 available seats. The internal divisions in the party lead to mass defections to the Basutoland National Party of Jonathan. Shortly before independence, Jonathans party wins an election by a large majority and the BNP is in charge of Lesotho when it takes full independence in 1966.
  6. 6. Armed struggle The BCP attempts a coup in 1974 and its leader Ntsu Mokhehle goes into exile to conduct an armed campaign against Jonathans government from South African soil. This precipitates a period of hostility between Pretoria and Maseru. Jonathans stance shifts to the left, and he becomes increasingly open to socialist regimes, resulting in the blockade of the country by South Africa.
  7. 7. Enter the army
  8. 8. Enter the army The Lesotho Defence Force, under Major-General Justin Lekhanya, stages a coup deposing Jonathan in 1986. The new military government gives executive powers to the king, who has hitherto been a constitutional monarch. But this is overturned and the military takes full control, forcing King Moshoeshoe into exile in Britain.
  9. 9. Enter the army Lekhanya, accused of corruption and of allowing rampant corruption, is forced out by his own soldiers in 1991. Two of his ministers, Tom Thabane and Evaristus Sekhonyana, flee the country after accusations of misappropriation of vast sums of money.
  10. 10. And the army splits Colonel Elias Rameama becomes the new military leader of Lesotho, but the army itself is split. Many military personnel have vested interests in maintaining political control in order to cover up corruption and other illegal activities under military rule. A ban on political activity is lifted in 1991, after a new constitution ensures there will be no prosecution for those in the military involved in illegal activities during military rule.
  11. 11. Return to civilian rule Thirteen parties contest the 1993 election, most significant among them being the BCP and the BNP. The Lesotho people go to the polls with a constitution that is vague on control of the military. The BCP, with a history of armed struggle, wins every available seat, and Dr Ntsu Mokhehle is sworn in as prime minister.
  12. 12. Sowing the seeds of sedition The BNP responds by expressing its concerns that the BCPs armed wing still exists, and says this poses a threat to the Lesotho Defence Force. Soldiers, who are already feeling marginalised, demand a 100% pay rise in 1994.
  13. 13. Divisions in the military After skirmishes between the rival Mokoanyane and Ramatjose military factions (named after where they were based during the first skirmish), Mokhele asks for the intervention of the South African government. Although the situation escalates dramatically, South Africa does not intervene, and the soldiers eventually stand down after minimal bloodshed.
  14. 14. Mutiny In April 1994, mutinous soldiers arrest four cabinet ministers. Police go on strike, and following negotiations on their behalf by the BNP, manage to secure a deal granting them indemnity from prosecution for all but criminal acts. This intervention creates a perception that there is an alliance between the police and the BNP, further polarising the country.
  15. 15. Regional intervention In August, King Letsie III announces the dismissal of the prime minister and the dissolution of Parliament. A summit in Pretoria on 25 August, attended by the king, prime minister Mokhehle, the presidents of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana and by the secretary-general of the OAU, Salim Ahmed Salim, marks the beginning of regional intervention.
  16. 16. The splintering of the BCP In 1997, Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle leaves the BCP to form the new Lesotho Congress for Democracy, but retires soon after. Pakalitha Mosisili becomes the new party leader and prime minister after the LCD wins the 1998 general election. Once again there are allegations of vote-rigging, and angry voters storm parliament.
  17. 17. The tipping point In 1998, clashes break out between police and protesters, and the army and police, and later senior officers are taken hostage by Lesotho Defence Force members. The commander of the defence force resigns.
  18. 18. Invasion
  19. 19. Invasion The South African National Defence Force crosses into Lesotho on 22 September 1998, followed by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). Operation Boleas restores order and allows the Lesotho police to regain control of the country.
  20. 20. Government by coalition
  21. 21. Government by coalition South Africa brokers a new deal between the various political parties that allows for an Interim Political Authority ahead of fresh elections in 2000. A decision is taken to increase the number of seats in Parliament by 50 to incorporate a system of proportional representivity, seeing in a series of coalition governments.
  22. 22. Government by coalition Elections are eventually held in 2002, resulting in another landslide victory for the LCD. In 2006, ahead of elections scheduled for the following year, Tom Thabane leaves the LCD to form the All Basotho Convention. The LCD takes the 2007 election, winning 61 of 80 seats. In 2012 Mosisilis Democratic Congress wins the majority of single seats, but Tom Thabane becomes Prime Minister through a coalition agreement.
  23. 23. Assassination claims As hostilities once again escalate, Thabane flees Lesotho in 2014 claiming the army is attempting yet another coup and intends to assassinate him. South Africa intervenes, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa brokers negotiations between the parties. This results in a snap election in 2015. In a reversal of fortunes, Mosisili comes to power through a coalition agreement with the smaller parties.
  24. 24. Assassination claims In 2015, Thabane flees, claiming his life is once again being threatened, and that army officers are attempting to take over the country. On June 25, former Lesotho Defence Force commander Maaparankoe Mahao is shot dead by troops, after having survived an attempt on his life in 2014.