Lesotho's troubled road

This brief reports describes the reasons and consequences of the coup d’etat in Lesotho on 20 January this year. The government of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan and his ruling party faced two interrelated problems before the coup: waning domestic support for the BNP and the Lesotho government’s inability to contain conflict with the South African government. South Africa’s deteriorating domestic environment spilled over into Lesotho, undercutting its recently improved economy. Dissatisfaction followed the cancellation of the September 1985 elections, adding to disenchantment with governmental tolerance of South African refugees in Lesotho and the anarchical actions of the BNP’s Youth League. The government was based on a policy of brinkmanship with Pretoria, which invited retaliation by South Africa. After the coup, the Military Council accorded enhanced power to Moshoeshoe II which may pave the way to a constitutional monarchy, despite disagreement among the various groups and parties. The King will have to distance himself from his traditional sympathies with the MFP. It is important to demonstrate a return to stable conditions. South Africa has complicated this by its association with various opposition parties and demands that its security concerns should receive immediate attention. This could stretch the capabilities of the Military Council, which might undermine the new regime’s legitimacy and staying power. The restoration of stability should be an internal matter, though regional realities cannot be ignored.