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Monday, September 14, 1998 Published at 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK


World: Africa

Talks to calm nerves in Lesotho



South Africa's Defence Minister Joe Modise has completed talks with rival army factions in Lesotho in an effort to calm the situation following an attempted insurrection by junior officers.

Mr Modise was due to fly back to Johannesburg to brief South Africa's president Nelson Mandela on Monday evening, the SAPA news agency reported.

The Defence Minister had held talks with both Lesotho government officials and members of the Lesotho Defence Force on stabilising the situation.

There are reports of protests against Mr Modise's involvement in Lesotho.

On Friday, junior officers detained their superiors and forced the army's commander Lieutenant-General Makhula Mosakheng to resign.


[ image: Joe Modise: Emergency visit to Lesotho]
Joe Modise: Emergency visit to Lesotho
But following South Africa's intervention at the weekend, Mr Modise brokered the release of Mr Mosakheng and more than twenty other senior officers.

Speaking at the Southern African Development Community summit in Mauritius, Mr Mandela said the insurrection had apparently been sparked by rumours that certain army officers were going to be dismissed.

Tension has been rising in Lesotho since elections in May which the opposition say were fraudulent.

During the weekend hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered outside Lesotho's royal palace to call for the publication of the Langa report on alleged election fraud last May.

The current prime minister's party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, won 79 out of 80 seats, but there have been continued protests about the fairness of the result.

The demonstrators lashed out at a decision by South Africa's Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki to discuss the document at the summit of the Southern African Development Community before releasing the findings to the public.

Protestors warned that if the Langa report confirms their allegations that the elections were rigged, unrest will escalate until Lesotho's government falls.



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