Revenge Killing Claims Six Lives, Weeks After Famo Gang Boss Accused Security Service of Fueling Rivalries

Just weeks after Tsepiso “Mosotho’ Radebe, leader of Lesotho’s Terene ea Khosi Mokata Famo gang, pleaded for the country’s prime minister to rein in members of the security service  for their role in supplying the nation’s gangs with weapons, 6 people have been shot dead in a suspected revenge killing over the weekend in Lesotho’s Leribe district. 

What You Need to Know:

The deceased include the wanted Liala Mabatha gang members’ pregnant wife, 4 family members, and a driver. According to local reports, the killing came after two Terene members were shot dead on Saturday by rival gang members while at a burial service of a Terene member who had been shot by a rival gang in South Africa some weeks prior. 

Six hours after the attack at the burial service, gang members arrived at Fobane village, which lies just under 10 miles away from Liphakoeng village, where the burial service took place, and opened fire on the occupants of a house thought to be that of a Liala Mabatha member. The gang members then torched the villages vehicles, with locals claiming they have resorted to sleeping outside for fear of being burnt alive inside their homes. 

Mosotho, in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times claimed “the police and army seemed to be taking sides in Famo disputes, citing that the armed forces had opted to attend the Fobane shooting, before they could attend to the Liphakoeng incident although it had been reported first.” 

The Details:

Despite Lesotho’s National Security Service designating Famo gangs as ‘internal terrorist groups’, very little has been done to stop the killings, with corruption in the military and police ranks key to how Famo gangs access weapons. 

This has resulted in what Mosotho has called a ‘bloodbath’, with Lesotho ranking in the top six countries for homicide in the world. 

In his interview with the Lesotho Times, Mosotho reiterated that while he was not attacking the entirety of Lesotho’s security sector, “I am simply calling for help. As matters stand, we cannot freely interact with the police, army or NSS people because we cannot trust them anymore. We often fear they would be coming from rival groups and would be out to eliminate us.”

In 2021, 75 firearms from Lesotho’s Mafeteng Police Station were sold by three officers to Famo gang members. Again, in August 2023, 23 pistols disappeared from the premises of Lesotho’s Robbery and Car Theft Squad (RCTS). 

As previously reported, Famo music, sung by speakers of Sesotho, originated in the 1920s in South African mines after migrant workers from Lesotho began singing hymn-like songs to pass the time. 

The 1980s brought the introduction of the accordion and bass to Famo music, which boosted its popularity and created the first Famo ‘stars’ in Lesotho.

Two Famo bands from the nations south– The Terene, formerly led by Rethabile Makete and the Seakhi, led by Bereng ‘Lekase’ Majoro and Lehlohonolo ‘Mahlanya’ Maketsi, have used diss-track type lyrics to drive violence along political and factional lines. 

Beginning in the early 2000s, the use of diss-track type lyrics among rival Famo groups have resulted in hundreds of murders. 

Famo promoter Sebonomoea Ramainoane, while speaking to the BBC claimed, “They come to a house looking for you – and you are not there. And they kill the wife, they kill the children, eliminate everybody in the family. Villages and villages are orphanages, because of Famo music.”

In response, the nation’s police have begun to implement a new operation, ‘Fiela 2024’, to address the killings. Mahlape Morai, Lesotho’s Acting Police Commissioner stated, “to fight this problem, the police, in partnership with the army, National Security Services (NSS) and Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) have launched a campaign, Operation Fiela 2024. As the head of the LMPS, I strongly condemn these barbaric actions and warn those who do not obey this instruction, that they will be met with the strong might of the law.” 

So, What Now?:

As predicted by Mosotho just weeks ago, the people of Lesotho are beginning to witness Famo gang members turning their weapons on women and children associated with rival gang members, plunging the country into a state of fear and distrust. 

How effective operation Fiela 2024 will be is yet to be seen, but unless the military and police make serious steps towards addressing corruption in their respective institutions, it is likely the killings will continue. 

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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