MASERU — The Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF) says it will “hit very hard” people who instigate violence during the campaign period.
The army issued the stern warning on Friday, a day after violent clashes between Democratic Congress (DC) and opposition supporters left 10 people injured and several cars damaged.
The clashes started when a mob wearing Lesotho Workers Party, All Basotho Convention and Lesotho Congress for Democracy regalia stormed a DC rally in the Thetsane Industrial Area on Thursday afternoon.
After the clashes DC leader, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, encouraged his supporters to retaliate if attacked.
But the army says it will not tolerate any attempt to destabilise peace in Lesotho.
In a strongly worded statement Captain Ntlele Ntoi, the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) public affairs officer, said “all those who are hell-bent to destabilise peace and tranquility in this country” are challenging the LDF’s capability “to maintain law and order”.
“Therefore the LDF will hit very hard on those who instigate violence to destabilise peace”.
The LDF HQ (headquarters) would like to remind perpetrators that Lesotho is not a Hobbesian state where only the fittest survive, Ntoi said.
He said the LDF condemns Thursday’s violence “in strong terms it deserves.”
“It was on that uncalled-for incident where perpetrators of these heinous acts inflicted serious injuries to some of the citizens, damaged property including the motorcade of the Right Honourable the Prime Minister,” he said.
“Accordingly, all those who are resolved to disrupt peace and stability should know forthwith that such incidents of violence which took place at Ha Thetsane will no longer be tolerated.”
The nation, Ntoi said, should remember how such incidents as the one in Thetsane “plunged the country into chaos”.
He was referring to the 1998 political riots that left dozens dead and reduced Maseru and other major towns to ashes.
Order was only restored after some regional countries intervened by sending an army.
Ntoi said the LDF Command expect that during the campaign for the May 26 election people will be free “to exercise their constitutional right which provide for freedom of association in order to choose the government of their choice without any intimidation of any form”.
“And it is the obligation of all those who are responsible for maintaining law and order to ensure that peace and tranquility prevails for the good of all Basotho regardless of their political affiliations, religious denominations or race”.
In response to the LDF’s statement, the Lesotho Workers Party deputy leader Sello Maphalla said it is good that the army is concerned about political violence.
He was however quick to point out that the army should “equally show concern about the rampant murders of prominent and ordinary people.”
“It is an established fact that gun-waving murderers are marching the streets freely and law enforcement agencies are not seen to take action like they are doing with the unfortunate Thetsane incident,” Maphalla said.
“We are still waiting for a strong statement like this one for murders of Thabang Moliko, Selomo (Lebajoa Lephatsoe), some MPs and others who were shot dead in the recent past,” he said.
“The LWP condemns the Thursday violence at Thetsane factories but at the same time urges the army to play an active role in dealing with other violent crimes.”