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Sunday, September 13, 1998 Published at 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK


World: Africa

S Africa intervenes in Lesotho army crisis



The South African Defence Minister Joe Modise has made an emergency visit to Lesotho in a bid to resolve an army mutiny by junior officers said to be sympathetic to opposition groups.


[ image: Joe Modise: crisis talks]
Joe Modise: crisis talks
According to South African High Commission officials, Mr Modise went straight into talks with the Prime Minister, Pathakili Mosisili, and other ministers

They expect to be joined by the newly-appointed army commander, Brigadier Anthony Thibeli, and his sacked predecessor, General Makhula Mosakeng.

The general, currently under house arrest, was one of about 20 senior officers who were forced to resign on Friday in the wake of the mutiny by junior officers who are reportedly sympathetic to the political opposition.

The head of the defence force reportedly left after a day of turmoil caused by on-going protests at the kingdom's election results last May.

Opposition supporters had camped in the grounds of the palace of King Letsie and the army had a collective crisis of conscience over how to deal with them.

Junior army officers were reported to have held two dozen of their senior commanders against their will, objecting to a policy of tough action against the protesters.

The subsequent resignation of the general and national radio appeals for calm led to concern that a military coup might be under way.

The Foreign Minister, Tom Thabane, told a news agency by telephone that the army was not fully under control.

Election controversy

Tension has been growing in land-locked Lesotho for several weeks as a report into alleged fraud during the elections awaits publication.

The report has been completed, but the delay in publishing it is reportedly causing anger among opposition parties and their supporters.

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

Lesotho's army is believed to be split in its view of the election and there have been claims that polls were rigged in favour of the ruling party.



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