Lesotho’s king convened parliament on Friday for the first time since an alleged coup attempt in August as the southern African country strives to resolve political tensions before elections next year.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in August accused Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of helping to plan a military coup which forced him to briefly seek refuge in South Africa. Metsing and the army have denied the allegation.
“It is our responsibility to clean our own house. I appeal and urge all you members of parliament to make the people’s needs your priority,” King Letsie III, a constitutional monarch with mostly ceremonial duties, told the chamber.
The reopening of parliament was attended by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who mediated talks between the political factions. They have agreed to bring elections forward by two years to February 2015, although an exact date has not been set.
Three South African police armoured vehicles were parked outside the parliament building during the ceremony, a visible sign of the role that Lesotho’s neighbour has played in restoring order in the mountainous, landlocked kingdom.
Coups have plagued Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa, since independence from Britain in 1966.
Besides textile exports and a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho’s other big earner is water piped to South Africa, which makes it of strategic importance to Pretoria.
Tens of thousands of its citizens also work in South Africa’s mines and on its farms as migrant workers.