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Lesotho prime minister escorted back home

September 3, 2014

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African police escorted Lesotho’s prime minister back to his home in the capital of the mountainous kingdom after military actions saw him to flee to South Africa over the weekend, a police official said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane arrived safely at his home in Maseru, said Assistant Police Commissioner Lehloka Maphatsoe. He did not say long South Africa’s forces would be present.

“We were informed that he is back home,” said Maphatsoe. “They have told the public that he is back home, but the way forward has not yet been publicized.”

South African police forces are in Lesotho for extra security, said Lesotho police commissioner Khothatso Tsooana. He also ordered that Lesotho police go back to work. They had been told days ago to stop work and not wear uniforms to prevent attacks on police.

The military disarmed police stations on Saturday. Radios were also jammed in what the prime minister said was a coup attempt in the country of about 2 million people. The military said they merely acted on information that police would be arming demonstrators in a political protest.

Political tensions have been high between Thabane, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and others within the country’s first coalition government since June when the prime minister suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence.

Metsing and the leader of the third party in the coalition also returned to Lesotho, said assistant police commissioner Maphatsoe. While South African police were present, Lesotho’s police remained off the streets and out of uniform after being instructed to do so to avoid being targeted in attacks, Maphatsoe said. The Southern African Development Community, the region’s 15-nation organization, said it is sending an envoy and an observer team to Lesotho to help restore stability and security in the tiny country encircled by South Africa.

Lesotho’s leaders agreed to a roadmap with a “clear timeline” on working toward removing the parliamentary suspension, SADC said. They also agreed to release a joint statement “appealing for calm and exercise restraint with a view to rapidly bring law and order back in the kingdom,” according to a statement issued by the regional body.

Lesotho has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

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