Southern African Development Community intervention in Lesotho
The Southern African Development Community intervention in Lesotho, codenamed Operation Boleas, was a military invasion launched by Southern African Development Community (SADC), and led by South Africa through its South African National Defence Force into Lesotho to quell a coup d'état.
In May 1998, parliamentary elections in Lesotho resulted in an overwhelming majority for the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy Party, which won 79 out of 80 seats. However allegations of vote fraud soon surfaced, and after a failed lawsuit by the opposition parties, widespread rioting broke out.
Under President Nelson Mandela the ANC-led government in South Africa (which completely landlocks Lesotho) announced it would hold a formal inquiry to determine the allegations of corruption. Controversially, the report only alleged minor irregularities.
Mandela authorised the deployment of 700 South African troops to Lesotho on 22 September 1998 to quell the rioting and maintain order. Botswana Defence Force soldiers were also deployed. The operation was described as an "intervention to restore democracy and the rule of law."
Widespread arson, violence, and looting occurred despite the presence of SANDF soldiers. Troops were pulled out in May 1999 after seven months of occupation. The capital city of Maseru was heavily damaged, requiring a period of several years for rebuilding.
South Africa was accused in some quarters of using its military and diplomatic superiority as a regional hegemon to dominate and meddle in the internal affairs of its much smaller, weaker neighbour to further its own strategic interests. South Africa is the largest economic and military power in the SADC.
- "Military Intervention in Lesotho: Perspectives on Operation Boleas and Beyond", OJPCR: The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution May 1999.