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Lesotho Incoming PM's Wife Shot Dead Days Before His Swearing-in

By Anita Powell June 15, 2017

Lesotho's incoming prime minister will take office Friday with a heavy heart, his spokesman says, after his estranged wife was shot dead Wednesday outside the capital of the tiny southern African nation.

Lipolelo Thabane's killing has sparked fears that Lesotho's violent political history may be returning. Thomas Thabane is taking a second stab at being prime minister after his last term ended suddenly in 2014, when he fled to neighboring South Africa because he said the army was trying to kill him. The couple separated in 2012 but had not divorced.

Thabane recently returned his All Basotho Convention party to power in a snap poll earlier this month. It was the third election in five years, after bitter infighting brought down the previous two coalition governments.

Moeketsi Majoro, the spokesman for Thabane's party, told VOA the police have yet to name a suspect and the party is trying to not speculate on what may have happened. Thabane died on the scene from her wounds. A friend who was travelling with her is being treated at a hospital.

"It's when a death like this occurs that it raises a lot of ire and a lot of speculation," he said. "And of course it's our responsibility as the incoming government that we endure, that we don't speculate, and we let the law enforcement agencies take the lead in investigating this death."

Call for calm

Majoro, who is one of the party's 48 new lawmakers recently voted into power, urged Lesotho citizens to try to remain calm even if they, like him, are rattled.

"You know, up to the reporting of this death, I was, I thought things were going to be reasonably smooth, but this tells me that nothing should be taken for granted going forward," he said. "It sends signals that we are back to 2014 again, when it was not easy to govern."

Lesotho's military has long been tightly entwined with this nation's political woes. The army led a 1986 coup to push out a long-serving government and has been involved in a number of political actions, including the action that ended Thabane's last term just two years in.

On election day, there were worrying signs violence is still on the horizon, when soldiers armed with automatic rifles lurked outside many opposition-leaning polling places in the capital. The situation provoked alarm from the opposition, the electoral commission, and observers.

One of Thabane's strongest campaign promises was that he could embark on a set of serious reforms to bring the nation's security forces into line and keep them from interfering in political matters.

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