Country Risk

Lesotho army chief's assassination raises risks of targeted killings of security forces, political figures, increasing government instability

15 September 2017

Key Points

  • The assassination at the military barracks underscores the ongoing power struggle between the country's military and political classes. The assassination will increase pressure on the ruling ABC-Alliance of Democrats coalition government to act on promises of security-sector reform, particularly on pay and service conditions.
  • Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is likely to implement the Southern African Development Community's recommendations for prosecutions and reform of the army; however, this is likely to face considerable pushback from the military elite, leading to potential acts of mutiny from persons aligned to former premier Pakalitha Mosisili, increasing the likelihood of further instability.
  • Death and injury risks will remain high for members of the security forces and political figures, with elevated risks of violence between members of the security forces.


Lesotho's army chief, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motsomotso, was killed on 5 September by rival army officers at Ratjomose barracks in the capital, Maseru.

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane at the SADC heads of state summit on 20 August 2017. (Gulshan Khan/AFP/Getty Images)Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane at the SADC heads of state summit on 20 August 2017. (Gulshan Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

Following the incident, local media reported that two senior officers, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hatshatsi, were responsible for the attack, although both were subsequently killed by Motsomotso's bodyguards. Media reports suggest that the two are believed to have arranged the murder of another former army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, in 2015. Lieutenant-General Motsomotso survived two previous assassination attempts in June 2015 and August 2014; the 2014 incident happened a day after being appointed by then prime minister Thomas Thabane (who is also the current premier) to replace Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli and on the same day as an alleged coup attempt purportedly led by Kamoli.

The current political instability traces its roots to the 2012 National Assembly elections, after then prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili, leading the new splinter Democratic Congress (DC) party, failed to achieve an outright majority, ending his 14-year rule. A coalition government was formed between two opposition parties, with Thomas Thabane of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) acting as prime minister and Mothetjoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) as deputy prime minister.

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