Lesotho's new leader inaugurated after forming a coalition

AP News
Posted: Mar 17, 2015 9:36 AM
Lesotho's new leader inaugurated after forming a coalition

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Lesotho on Tuesday inaugurated a new prime minister, who came to power by forming a coalition government after a special election meant to stabilize the small but politically fractious country.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was sworn into office in the capital Maseru where his supporters, clad in red and shaded by umbrellas, filled a sports stadium.

Mosisili took control after his party, the Democratic Congress, formed a coalition with several smaller parties to secure a majority after the Feb. 28 election had no outright winner.

Lesotho held the election two years early after the collapse of the previous coalition government led by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Mosisili led Lesotho from 1998 to 2012, when he lost in elections to Thabane.

"This time around, the coalition experience will work in Lesotho, to unite our nation," Mosisili said, reading his speech in English and Sesotho, the local language.

Mosisili, who turned 70 on March 14, thanked the mountainous country's neighbors for their involvement in solving Lesotho's "internal problems which at one point appeared insurmountable."

Last year, Lesotho's security forces became embroiled in politics, with the military and police split according to political factions. Tension came to a head when Thabane fled to South Africa last year, alleging he was the target of a coup plot, as police and the army clashed.

One police officer was killed when the army forced its way into some police stations in August 2014. A private security guard was shot dead and two soldiers wounded in an attack in 2015, in the run-up to the election.

Lesotho's neighbors intervened and the 15-member Southern African Development Community set up an observer mission to ensure a peaceful vote.

South Africa's deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, led negotiations which brought early elections. South African police were also sent to Lesotho ahead of the election.

Lesotho, an impoverished nation of about 2 million people, is completely surrounded by South Africa and has a history of military unrest, most recently in an attempted coup in 1998.