Lesotho – Journalist Shot

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There are increased concerns after an suspected assassination attempt, the latest in a series of incidents.

The Lesotho Times announced on July 11th that its editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, had been shot at his home in Maseru on July 9th by unknown assailants. Despite significant injuries to his face Mutungamiri survived and is recovering in hospital.

The shooting came days after the Lesotho Times reported that its owner, Basildon Peta, had been charged with defamation over an article which criticised the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli. The article related to an alleged South African Rand (R) 40-million exit plan for Kamoli.

Another Lesotho Times journalist, Keiso Mohloboli, fled the country after stating that she feared for her life, reported the Zimbabwe MailMutungamiri is recovering in a South African hospital after undergoing two major operations to reconstruct his face.

Since Kamoli’s appointment by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in 2015 a number of incidents have taken place; his predecessor Maaparankoe Mahao was assassinated,  opposition figures have been attacked and the army has ignored court orders to release detained soldiers, reported All Africa.

According to the Daily Maverick on July 20th, as a further sign of growing intolerance, national executive member of the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Bokang Ramatšella, made a death threat against the US ambassador. The statement was made on Masokotso on Ts’enolo FM, a private government-aligned radio station.

Newly elected Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili greets masses during the ceremony. 17/03/2015, Elmond Jiyane, DoC

Inauguration of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili – CC 2015

Amnesty International said that authorities in Lesotho must launch an independent and impartial investigation after the attack on the Lesotho Times editor. According to Amnesty the shooting has left journalists fearing for their lives and the authorities have failed to ensure a safe environment.

A joint civil society statement released on July 15th stated, “we call on the Lesotho authorities to take effective measures to protect the right to freedom of expression and the physical safety of all journalists in the country. In addition, the authorities must expeditiously and impartially investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice.”

Lesotho has seen heightened violence since the assassination of former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao on June 25th 2015, and the subsequent reinstatement of Kamoli as head of the LDF after elections in February 28th 2015, caused by a coup attempt launched by Kamoli on August 30th 2014, against then-prime minister Thomas Thabane.

Most opposition leaders, including Thabane, are living in exile in South Africa and refuse to return while Kamoli remains head of the LDF, reported South African news service IOL

Amnesty International has also urged that an investigation into the death of Mahao is thorough and pursued without delay. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa said, “the soldiers who shot Maaparankoe Mahao are known by the senior army commanders of the LDF. Authorities must ensure that the criminal investigation is thorough, effective and impartial and identifies those with criminal responsibility for his killing.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Lesotho – Defence Chief Shot Dead
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20613A

LESOTHO: Post-Coup Attempt Poll
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.3, Pp.20492A–20493A

LESOTHO: Military Deny Coup Attempt
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.8, Pp.20248B–20249A

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