MASERU, Lesotho — Lesotho’s new prime minister took the oath of office on Friday, returning to power three years after he fled the politically unstable southern African kingdom because of fears that he was an assassination target.
Zambia’s president, South Africa’s deputy president and other foreign dignitaries attended the inauguration of Thomas Thabane, whose estranged wife was shot dead Wednesday in what many Thabane supporters believe was an effort to intimidate the new governing coalition. There have been no arrests in the shooting of Lipolela Alice Thabane, who was attacked outside her home in the capital, Maseru.
In a speech, the 78-year-old Thabane vowed to stem what he called a “downward spiral of lawlessness” while promoting human rights as well as political and security-related reforms recommended by the Southern African Development Community, a group of regional countries that has promoted stability in Lesotho.
“We also commit to good governance with an emphasis on accountability,” said Thabane, adding that alleviating poverty through economic growth was another priority. The tiny nation has high rates of both poverty and HIV infection.
Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party dominated June 3 elections after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who succeeded Thabane in a 2015 vote, lost a no-confidence vote in parliament in March.
Lesotho has been beset by concerns about military interference in politics and a series of high-profile killings over the years. Thabane fled to South Africa, whose territory surrounds Lesotho, because he thought soldiers would try to kill him. The military, seen as supportive of Mosisili, Thabane’s rival, has denied such a conspiracy and has pledged to respect democratic rule.
Amnesty International says the incoming government should work to curb human rights abuses.