Rival Factions in Lesotho Agree to Cease-Fire

Article excerpt

WARRING army factions of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) in Maseru, the capital of a black political nation landlocked by South Africa, agreed to a cease-fire on Jan. 25, following international mediation.

In addition, government spokesman Seeiso Serutla said that the two sides were due to meet that evening for talks expected to last several days.

Fierce exchanges of mortar and gunfire on Jan. 23 and 24 raged in the capital and the surrounding hills and forced the government to appeal for help. Many foreign nationals have left Maseru.

But South African Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha said on Jan. 24 that South African forces would not intervene. Although military intervention by South Africa is feasible, diplomats say it would set a disastrous political precedent for settling future conflicts in the region.

"To send in armored troops at this stage would mean that we would have less security forces available inside our own country," Mr. Botha said.

He added, however, that South African troops were stationed on the Lesotho border to deal with any spillover effect.

The conflict is of concern to the southern African region because of the close links between South Africa and Lesotho. A large Sotho population lives in the South African territory bordering the landlocked kingdom, and nearly half of Lesotho's economically active population is employed in South Africa. …


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