JOHANNESBURG (AA) – A high-ranking official from Lesotho on Saturday denied reports about a military coup in his mountainous southern African country.
“There is no Coup in Lesotho,” the country’s Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister, Tseliso Mokhosi, told Anadolu Agency.
“What happened this morning was that the army had moved to disarm police at two stations where arms were stored,” Mokhosi, also the deputy secretary-general of Lesotho’s ruling Democratic Congress Party, added by phone from the capital Maseru.
International media has been full of reports about a new military coup in the southern African kingdom.
Reporting raids by army units on several police stations, and exchanges of fire, this media concluded that the country was in for a fresh round of political violence.
Mokhosi said, however, that the army had moved to disarm police upon information that prime minister Thomas Thabane had sought to form a parallel army that would have been equipped by police, the thing that would have ushered in anarchy in the country.
“The military went back to its barracks after disarming police and there is absolutely no chaos in Lesotho,” the minister said.
“Life is normal, people went about their daily business and there is no problem,” he added.
Earlier on Saturday, Thabane accused his country’s army of staging a military coup against his government, saying he was forced to flee to South Africa.
Earlier in the day, tension hung over the capital of Lesotho, Maseru, following a raid by the army on the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS), the national police service, headquarters and police stations around the city.
The early morning attack saw heavily armed army personnel rounding up police officers on duty, and disarming them.
Radio stations had also been cut off air during this operation, though later in the day they were back to broadcasting.
The army has since issued a statement assuring the public that the security situation in their country was “normal”.
It added that the raid aimed to contain and disarm the LMPS ahead of a planned mass demonstration, calling for reopening parliament to Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane, on Monday.
The army noted that it received information that the LMPS planned to provide the All Basotho Convention-affiliated youth organization, Under The Tree Army, with weaponry for attacks on protestors on Monday.
Spokesman of Lesotho Defense Forces (army), Major Ntele Ntoi, also denied reports about the presence of a military coup in his country.
“There is no coup in Lesotho,” Ntoi told AA. “In fact, there was a little disturbance this morning when residents were awakened to gun fire,” he added on the phone.
Ntoi said the police and the army exchanged fire during the disarming of one police unit after the army gathered information that this police unit was on the verge of arming youths affiliated with a political group.
“Our commander decided that we should disarm this unit to avoid bloodshed,” Ntoi said. “There is no coup whatsoever,” he added.
Lesotho has been the scene of political tension since Thabane promulgated his country’s national assembly in a bid to circumvent a no-confidence vote.
Additional reporting by Ahmet Sait Akcay
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