Africa

Lesotho's PM Pakalitha Mosisili deserts political party

Pakalitha Mosisili, prime minister of Lesotho, delivering his remarks on the opening day of the United Nations three-day session on AIDS in 2001 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pakalitha Mosisili has been Lesotho's prime minister since 1998

Lesotho's prime minister has resigned from the political party he has led for 15 years - saying he could no longer stop it from "falling apart".

Pakalitha Mosisili's departure comes after two years of factional squabbles in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.

He has joined a new movement, which now has a slim parliamentary majority as 45 MPs went with him.

Lesotho - a tiny mountainous kingdom surrounded by South Africa - has a history of coups and political unrest.

'Falling apart'

Mr Mosisili remains prime minister and becomes the deputy head of the newly formed Democratic Congress.

Observers say the LCD party, which now becomes the main opposition, may be reduced to a shell ahead of general elections due in May.

"For the past two years I have tried every effort to save LCD from falling apart, but all in vain," Mr Mosisili said.

He said that he would not sack ministers who had not defected with him, saying "it is up to their conscience to resign or remain in cabinet".

Mr Mosisili first became prime minister in 1998.

In 2009, he survived unhurt an apparent assassination attempt in the capital, Maseru, after several gunmen opened fire on the his official residence.

Lesotho - a former British protectorate - has one of the world's highest rates of HIV/Aids infection.

The country is heavily dependent on South Africa, where over the decades thousands of Basotho have worked in the mines.

Resources are scarce because of the harsh environment of the highland plateau and limited agricultural space in the lowlands.

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