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Who is Tom Thabane? And what next for Lesotho?

The last transfer of power in Lesotho to Pakalitha Mosisili in 1998 ended in riots and violence by opposition supporters who did not believe that Mosisili’s party had truly won a crushing victory in the 1997 election — although the vote largely reflected the will of the people, the crisis ended only with international intervention from South Africa.

So with word that Mosisili has given up hope to form a coalition headed by his breakaway Democratic Congress party, the path seems clear for an orderly — and peaceful — transfer of power from Mosisili to Tom Thabane, former foreign minister and one-time protegé of Mosisili, later this week.

In the parliamentary election on May 26, Democratic Congress — a party formed only in February 2012 as a splinter from Mosisili’s longstanding Lesotho Congress for Democracy party — won 48 seats.  The Lesotho Congress for Democracy, under Mothetjoa Metsing, won just 26 seats, as somewhat of an evolved protest group, while Thabane’s All Basotho Convention won 30 seats.

Together with the Basotho National Party, the LCD and the ABC are expected to form a coalition under Thabane.

The peaceful transfer of power in the small mountainous country (it’s surrounded entirely by the national of South Africa) comes just after a remarkably similar transfer in Senegal earlier this year.  As in Senegal, the transfer from Mosisili to Thabane is expected to be marked more by continuity than by rupture.

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