JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The southern African country of Lesotho will hold elections in February — two years earlier than scheduled — in an effort to resolve political tension, a mediator said Thursday.
South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa also said Lesotho's parliament would reconvene Oct. 17. He spoke in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, after talks with political factions.
"Early elections hold the key to finding a solution to the political, and indeed security, challenges the country faces," Ramaphosa said. He urged Lesotho's security forces to stay out of politics.
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament in June to avoid a vote of no-confidence in his coalition government. He then fled to South Africa, alleging he was the target of a coup attempt, and later returned under the protection of South African forces.
Thabane and his political rivals signed the agreement for early elections. The Southern African Development Community, a regional organization, has established a mission in the country in an effort to ensure peace until the elections.
Elections had previously been scheduled for 2017.