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Mount Qiloane, symbol of the Basotho. (Photo: mjj)

MASERU, Lesotho – The passport is stamped U.S., but I’m unabashedly a citizen of the world.

I’ve got a toehold on four continents, from New York to Hong Kong, from Prague to Lesotho. As a foreign correspondent, journalism educator, communications consultant, and father of three, I live high in the mountains of southern Africa, in the tiny “Mountain Kingdom” of Lesotho.

As the lone Western correspondent here, I’m now covering Lesotho’s unique political crisis for AFP and others. Yet this is an interlude from the Health Journalism I’ve been teaching in one of the world’s sickliest societies.

Meanwhile, from next-door South Africa, I’m co-producing a documentary film – The Clubhouse: A Post-Apartheid Story – which explores racial healing and equal opportunity in “The Rainbow Nation,” twenty years later.

At the same time, in Hong Kong, I’m a five-time Visiting Scholar teaching International Journalism, mostly to bright, young mainland Chinese; and in Prague, I’m Senior Trainer of a biannual course in story-telling from around the world. In fact, post-Communist Central Europe flows through my veins; that’s where I launched my own foreign-correspondent career two decades ago.

Thank you for visiting my website – and for reading! … Michael

(The following article was published Oct. 23 by international news agency AFP.)

AFP

A surreal scene in Maseru.

A surreal scene on Oct. 23, of alleged co-conspirators and their targets. From left: Maseribane, Metsing, Thabane, Ramaphosa, Kamoli, Tsooana, Mahao. Maseribane accuses Metsing and Kamoli of trying to abduct and kill him and Thabane. Tsooana’s home was reportedly attacked by grenade; Mahao’s by gunfire – killing his dog. (Photo: mjj)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) - South Africa’s deputy president brokered a deal to end a destabilising post-coup standoff in Lesotho Thursday, with the head of the police and rival military commanders agreeing to step down.

Southern African mediators led by Cyril Ramaphosa said they had convinced renegade Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who is accused of being behind an August 30 attempted coup, to take a leave of absence, along with two other top security officials.

Kamoli, rival military commander Maaparankoe Mahao and Lesotho police commissioner Khothatso Tsooana will hand over authority to their deputy commanders for an unspecified time.

Kamoli is suspected of leading the early morning raid on Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s residence and the national police headquarters, which killed one police officer and injured nine. He has since refused an order to relinquish command and has armed a small group of loyal fighters, prompting questions about stability in the small landlocked nation.

With Ramaphosa looking on, Kamoli signs his pledge to keep the peace - and head into de facto exile? (Photo: mjj)

With Ramaphosa as witness, Kamoli signs his vow to keep the peace – and head into de facto exile? (Photo: mjj)

“What’s important here is that they have agreed to do all of this, to set aside their own personal interests,” said Ramaphosa, in announcing the agreement. “What has surged forward are the interests of the nation. They’ve been promised nothing but a wonderful leave of absence and wonderful work-visits.”

Ramaphosa had earlier held secret talks with the group, despite Kamoli being investigated by Lesotho police for two crimes linked to the August 30 assault: high treason and murder.

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(The following article was published Oct. 17 by international news agency AFP.)

AFP

Opposition MPs sing inside the Lesotho Parliament, after it re-opened Friday. (Photo: mjj)

Opposition MPs sing inside the Lesotho Parliament, after it re-opened Oct. 17. (Photo: mjj)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) - Lesotho’s King Letsie III re-opened parliament Friday amid tight security, the first step in a peace deal aimed at ending a crisis sparked by an attempted military coup.

Opposition parliamentarians celebrated with song and dance on the floor of the legislature, as the chamber sat for the first time in four months.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane had suspended the body in June fearing a vote of no-confidence that could have booted him from power.

The re-opening of parliament is a key first step in a peace deal following an August 30 coup attempt and will lead to early elections in February 2015.

The king, who is constitutionally restricted to a ceremonial role, thanked the international community –- and particularly the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) — for helping to defuse the crisis.

“On behalf of the Basotho nation, I would like to express… our deep-rooted gratitude for expeditiously coming to our assistance at this critical moment in our political journey,” King Letsie told the 120-member chamber, as the SADC mediator, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, looked on.

As the king filed out, followed by Thabane, his feisty opponents, led by former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili, then filled the floor, singing and swaying.

“Democracy begins again,” said one MP, Kotiti Diholo of the Democratic Congress. “There was no longer democracy in this country, but now we can get back to representing our people.”

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(The following article was published Oct. 16 by international news agency AFP.)

AFP

As mediator Ramaphosa outlined his "peace" plan for Lesotho, PM Thabane looked like a man defeated. (Photo: mjj)

When Ramaphosa outlined his “peace” plan on Oct. 2, PM Thabane looked like a man defeated. (Photo: mjj)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) – Lesotho’s parliament is due to reconvene Friday, the first step of a peace deal aimed at resolving weeks of crisis sparked by an attempted military coup.

With security concerns on-going, the 120-member legislature will reconvene four months after Prime Minister Tom Thabane suspended it to dodge a no-confidence vote that would likely have seen him kicked out of power.

“It’s a milestone,” says Tumisang Mosotho, a senior advisor to Thabane. “We want to hope this is the first step in the right direction, in liberating our country from the danger that has surrounded us these past few months.

On August 30 Thabane fled the tiny kingdom, entirely surrounded by South Africa, hours before the military attacked police installations, in what was seen as part of an orchestrated putsch.

Just hours before he had fired Lesotho Defence Force commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who still refuses to relinquish his command.

(The following article was published Oct. 2 by international news agency AFP.)

AFP

By Michael J. Jordan

Cyril Ramaphosa had reason to smile after brokering peace in Lesotho. But will the deal last? (Photo: mjj)

Cyril Ramaphosa had reason to smile after brokering peace deal in Lesotho. But will it last? (Photo: mjj)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) - Lesotho’s feuding political parties have agreed to hold elections in February — more than two years early — in a bid to exit a crisis that has seen a coup attempt and running battles between the security forces.

“National general elections will be held towards the end of February 2015,” said mediator and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The exact date for the polls, originally set for 2017, will be set by King Letsie III, he added.

Just two years ago, Lesotho was hailed as a beacon of democracy in southern Africa, carrying out a peaceful handover of power, then forming one of Africa’s rare coalition governments.

But that disintegrated amid constant bickering, corruption allegations, political violence and an August 30 attempted coup.

Thursday’s agreement will also see parliament reconvene on October 17 after being shuttered by Prime Minister Tom Thabane in June as he looked poised to lose a no-confidence vote.

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(The following article was published Oct. 1 by international news agency AFP.)

AFP

In highly polarized Lesotho, dueling narratives of what happened. SA forces investigating, too. (Photo: mjj)

In highly polarized Lesotho, dueling narratives of what happened. SA forces investigating, too. (Photo: mjj)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) – Two policemen in Lesotho were wounded Tuesday night during a shootout between the force and the military, police said, in the latest fall-out from an attempted coup a month ago.Lesotho Mounted Police Service spokesman Lebona Mohloboli confirmed to AFP that “two police officers (were) shot and injured.”

The gunfire exchange took place on the outskirts of Maseru and outside the neighbouring houses of a senior government official and a military officer who is reportedly wanted in connection with the attempted coup.

Details were still sketchy on Wednesday.

“We’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened,” Tumisang Mosotho, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tom Thabane told AFP.

Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, was rocked by an attempted coup on August 30 that has left relations between police and the armed forces on a knife-edge.

Morning after the shootout, two weapons lay beside a bullet-riddled car. (Photo: mjj)

Morning after the shootout, two weapons lay beside a bullet-riddled car. (Photo: mjj)

Government secretary Moahloli Mphaka, claiming he was the target of Tuesday’s attack, told South Africa’s state broadcaster that he fled his home when soldiers exchanged shots with the police officers guarding his house.

“I was able to escape and hide,” he told SABC.

His neighbour is a military guard officer for deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, whom police are probing for “high treason” over his alleged role in the botched August 30 putsch.

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(The following article was published Sept. 29 by international news agency AFP.)

AFP

Lesotho Deputy Police Commissioner Masupha Masupha, at the Sept. 18 memorial for the comrade killed during the failed coup. (Photo: mjj)

Lesotho Deputy Police Commissioner Masupha Masupha, at the Sept. 18 memorial for the comrade killed during the failed coup. (Photo: mjj)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) – Lesotho’s police force is investigating some of its own officers for their possible role in an attempted military coup that left one policeman dead, senior commissioners have told AFP.

At least two officers are being investigated as part of a wider treason and murder inquiry, suggesting the putsch — which forced the prime minister to flee to South Africa — may be broader and more intricately planned than first thought.

In the early hours of August 30, soldiers moved on the homes of the prime minister, a minister, an army commander and the headquarters of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, leaving one officer dead and nine injured. Prime Minster Tom Thabane escaped shortly beforehand, having received a tip-off.

“There are allegations that some police were working with (the) military on this, and we’re looking into it,” Deputy Police Commissioner Masupha Masupha told AFP. “Even I’ve been implicated. But investigating and charging are different things. If I find something, I won’t shy away from confronting anyone with their unlawful acts.”

Lehloka Maphatsoe — an assistant police commissioner who is also head of the Interpol national central bureau — told AFP on Monday that the cellphones of two police officers have been sent to neighbouring South Africa for analysis. Police in Bloemfontein are checking for “suspicious communications” prior to the attacks and whether there were attempts to delete that evidence.

He cautioned that the allegations against the police were unproven and could be part of a “propaganda strategy to cause panic or distrust among members of the police service.”

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