Instability lingers in African kingdom after deadly shootout

MASERU, Lesotho (AP) — For workers leaving a textile factory during a recent lunchtime in Lesotho, assassinations and political intrigue are a kind of background noise in the small southern African kingdom.

The shooting death last week of the country’s military commander, Lt. Gen. Khoantle Motsomotso, by two rival officers who were killed in the gunfight heightened regional concerns about Lesotho, whose mostly peaceful elections in June gave hope that stability was being restored.

But many residents of the poor, mountainous country of 2 million people encircled by South African territory feel cut off from the years of unrest and maneuvering for power.

“This issue is not for us ordinary people to worry about, but it concerns those involved in politics,” said Matselano Senohe, who works in a Chinese-owned factory near the central business district of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital.

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Munching fried bread, she recalled that after the assassination of a former army general in 2015, “it was business as usual here. In fact, we learnt about it on the radio in pretty much the same way that people outside Lesotho heard about it.”

Even so, Motsomotso’s killing was a jarring reminder of how periodic unrest is holding back Lesotho, which has a history of shaky coalition governments and military interference in politics for much of the period since independence from Britain in 1966.

Regional mediators had seen Motsomotso’s promotion as a step forward, elevating a supporter of the new government to replace Tlali Kamoli, a military commander widely viewed as a destabilizing presence in Lesotho’s political landscape.

The two officers involved in Motsomotso’s death were said to be supporters of Kamoli, who has kept a low profile, leaving many in Lesotho wondering whether the shootout marked an end to the mayhem or signaled a brief respite. Troops from several southern African countries, part of a regional bloc, have deployed to the kingdom as a peacekeeping force but are largely staying out of sight.

In an emotional eulogy for Motsomotso on Thursday, Lesotho’s constitutional monarch, King Letsie III, said the assassination had made the country a laughingstock and he lambasted politicians for using the military to undertake illegal missions.

“Politicians should stop enticing soldiers into politics, which has jeopardized the country’s peace and…

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