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Coup risks in Lesotho

26 June 2019 Langelihle Malimela

Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane on 17 June dismissed five senior members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), claiming that they had brought the party into disrepute. However, the five leaders have contended that Thabane did not follow procedure and have refused to leave their positions in the NEC.

The five, who include the party's deputy president and staunch Thabane opponent Professor Nqosa Mahao, are part of a new NEC that was elected at a conference in January and which has been working to remove Thabane as prime minister. The new NEC, which now controls the party's parliamentary majority, filed a motion of no confidence in Thabane on 5 June that the house speaker, who is close to Thabane, has refused to table. This decision is very likely to be challenged in court.

Significance

On 14 June, a court affirmed the election of the new NEC, following a legal challenge from Thabane supporters. This prompted the new members to change the locks on the doors at the party's headquarters in the capital, Maseru. This led to the dismissals by Thabane. Heads of the army, police, and the intelligence services later issued a statement expressing their concern that the factions in the ruling ABC have begun to employ the services of private security companies. These companies are made up mainly of former members of the security services, and the statement asked that they be disbanded immediately and made to relinquish their uniforms and weapons.

Given the extent of divisions between the two sides as well as the history of politicization of the military in Lesotho, it is highly unlikely that either side will heed the call to disarm what military personnel have referred to as private militias. There is a high likelihood that the military will intervene to disarm groups, elevating the possibility of a coup. If the Speaker of parliament does not permit a no-confidence vote on Thabane among the legislature, there is an elevated risk of the new NEC attempting to remove him with the help of former members of the security services.

Posted 26 June 2019 by Langelihle Malimela, Senior analyst, Country Risk – Africa, IHS Markit

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