Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane arrives at the White House for a state dinner on August 5, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The leader deployed the army to restore order Saturday. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
April 18 (UPI) -- Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane on Saturday deployed the army into the streets to restore order.
The order was meant to "restore law and order" after Thabane said in a televised statement that people and institutions were undermining his government and the rule of law.
He added that democracy has also been undermined with abuse of the courts, freedom of speech and human rights.
The army has been deployed "to take control of this situation and take necessary measures against these elements in alignment with the security orders and restore peace and order," Thabane said. "This is to avoid putting the nation in danger."
Critics have labeled the move "martial law."
The order appears to be unrelated to measures to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The mountain kingdom is already under a pandemic lockdown -- like much of surrounding South Africa -- but the country is one of over a dozen that hasn't reported a single case.
Lesotho closed its border before any cases of COVID-19 were reported.
The country's lockdown is expected to end in the coming week, but an extension is still being considered.
"The lockdown is still expected to end on April 21," a statement from the prime minister's office reads. "The extension of the lockdown will be decided by government after assessing the general situation surrounding the pandemic. "
Thabane, himself, has been subject to controversy after police said they wanted to charge him with the murder of his former wife, Lipolelo Thabane, who was killed outside her home in Lesotho's capital of Maseru in 2017, two days before Thabane's inauguration.
Thabane has dismissed the accusation as a plot to oust him from his prime minister seat.
His lawyers sought immunity from the charges and in February, a magistrate ruled he would not be charged with the murder until a constitutional issue was settled because he is a sitting prime minister.
Amid the controversy, Thabane agreed to resign by the end of July, but members of his All Basotho Convention party have urged him to leave even sooner to avoid political crisis.
Thabane has accused members of his own party of plotting a coup against him.
"I therefore order security bosses to investigate these terrorism acts and ensure that legal action is taken against those leading this campaign," he said.