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Political Violence Imperils Trade Deals
30 June 2015
man responsible for instigating an attempted coup
against former Lesotho prime minister Thomas Thabane
last August appears to have launched a wave of
reprisals, prompting several political leaders to
flee. Escalating political violence in Lesotho is
threatening crucial trade deals at the center of the
Following years of political wrangling and feuds
between the police and army, Lesotho was plunged
into turmoil in August when army commander Lt.
General Tlali Kamoli led an attempted-coup against
then prime minister Thomas Thabane.
Following the coup attempt a new seven-party
coalition was elected in a snap election in February
under Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who
reappointed Kamoli as commander of the Lesotho
He replaced Maaparankoe Mahao who was appointed army
commander by Thabane last August and was shot dead
on June 25 after several Lesotho Defense Force
trucks stopped him. The army said that he resisted
arrest during an operation to clamp down on mutiny.
At least 50 soldiers are facing charges of mutiny
for allegedly plotting to assassinate Kamoli.
In May, prominent businessman Thabiso Tsosane, a
political contributor to former prime minister
Thabane's All Basotho Convention party, was also
shot dead. His death prompted Thabane to flee the
country, saying he feared for his safety.
Thabane's supporters say the violence in recent
months appears targeted at them and they blame
U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho Matthew Harrington
condemned the move to reinstate Kamoli, whom he
described as a “highly-polarizing figure” in a May
Lesotho risks losing benefits from the African
Growth and Opportunity Act that provides duty-free
access to U.S. markets. Since joining the deal,
employment in the Lesotho textile industry has risen
75 percent to 35,000, and 100 percent of its exports
are facilitated under act. Deputy Prime Minister
Mothetjoa Metsing has said that the county’s
industry would collapse without the trade deal.
"For us, without that, it will exacerbate the
problems that we are having," said Metsing. "It may
even be worse. Remember those firms are employing
more than 30,000 people. It is doing so much to help
us as a country. So any politician, anybody would be
worried and that is why we will always engage the
Americans on this matter..."
But the United States could rescind the deal if
Lesotho’s political violence intensifies. The deal
calls for AGOA partners to respect the rule of law
and to protect human rights.
The deal was withdrawn from Swaziland last year when
it failed to protect workers’ rights and freedom of
expression. Thousands of jobs have been lost as
factories struggle to stay open.
The politics of Lesotho continue to be intertwined
with infighting between the country’s police force
and army, says NKC African Economics' analyst Gary
"I do not see a short-term solution," he said. "The
economic impact will come if there is an issue
between bilateral and unilateral donors to Lesotho
and what is happening in the political environment
at the moment, because any withholding of aid is
going to be fairly catastrophic for Lesotho."
Prime Minister Mosisili has dismissed U.S. and
European criticism on June 8 saying “the main
principle guiding countries’ relations is that they
should desist from interfering in each other’s
internal or domestic affairs.”
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