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Talks to end famo killings set for today

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MASERU— Warring famo factions whose battles have led to the killing of more than a hundred people in the past two years are meeting in Mafeteng today for peace talks spearheaded by the government. The meeting will be held at ’Masentle High School in Mafeteng. Leaders of the Terene and Seakhi groups that have been at the centre of the bloody clashes will meet with government representatives for talks that are expected to begin at 8am.

A source within the government told the Sunday Express on Friday that after talks today they expect leaders of the two factions to address their supporters in Mafeteng and encourage them to lay down their arms. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Molobeli Soulo on Friday held a preliminary closed door meeting with the leaders of the Terene and Seakhi groups to understand the cause of the killings. The Terene camp is led by prominent All Basotho Convention (ABC) supporter, Rethabile Mokete, known in the famo music circles as Mosotho Chakela while the Seakhi group is led by Lehlohonolo Maketsi aka Mahlanya and Bereng Majoro aka Lekase who are linked to the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

The ABC and LCD are partners in the coalition government set up after the May 26 election. The Basotho National Party (BNP) is a junior partner in the government. Government spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, confirmed to the Sunday Express that Soulo had met the famo leaders on Friday but declined to reveal the contents of the talks. Thakalelekoala said the session was closed to the media because talks were still ongoing and were at a sensitive stage.

“All will be divulged in due course. At the moment everything is still under wraps,”Thakalekoala said. The Sunday Express however understands that the two factions are still miles apart in their views on how to resolve the crisis, a situation that could see the talks hitting a brick-wall. The sources said the warring factions still do not see eye-to-eye on several key issues. The source on Friday said the meeting was tense with Lekase at one point refusing to respond to certain questions claiming he was not the leader of Seakhi. “This angered Chakela because the understanding was that the meeting was at the level of leaders. For Lekase to have said that made him feel undermined,” the source said.

“Mosotho Chakela was of the opinion that the talks might as well be halted if the rightful leader of the Seakhi camp was not around.” Another source added that there was a feeling from both camps that government had made its own plans without engaging them from the very beginning adding “they are now imposing it all on them”. “What government should have done was to set up a commission of inquiry using people familiar with the famo wars and only approach the camps with a clear plan,” the source said.

Although plans to reconcile the factions were said to be at government level, the source says, the camps feel let down because their needs are not being catered for. “For instance, for both camps to come to Lesotho, they had to incur costs as government is not catering for them. They have had to foot the bill for their hotel accommodation,” the source said. The source added that the Seakhi group appeared to have split into two factions, with one in support of the LCD while the other is backing the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party. An estimated 50 supporters of the Seakhi faction clad in their trademark blankets in khaki and chocolate brown colours, mainly from Ha-Khobotle in Thabana-Morena, attended the DC’s last election campaign rally at Ha-Foso on May 20.

“If government is determined to stop the deaths and usher in a new era of peace in the industry, they have to involve the DC side in this issue because it has been politicised as it is already,” the source said. The famo killings reached their peak in 2009 after the assassination of the late Seakhi leader, Rants’o Makepi,and later Daniel Rampipi in January 2011. Both Rantšo and Rampipi were famo music heavyweights and were at loggerheads with Mosotho Chakela’s Terene camp. Lekase, who is based in Gauteng in South Africa, received a hero’s welcome as leader of Seakhi group at the Maseru Border Gate on Friday.

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