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After alleged coup attempt, Lesotho Prime Minister Thabane returns under South African police guard

The last week saw serious political unrest in Lesotho (le-SOO-too), a tiny mountainous country of about 2 million that is entirely surrounded by South Africa. Political wrangling over the composition of the parliament and potential new elections broke out into open conflict on August 31 in what appeared to be an attempted coup by the military, with soldiers and the police clashing violently, and Prime Minister Tom Thabane fleeing the country.

Things appear to have settled down for the moment, though — Thabane returned home Wednesday with the help of South African police. The parliament will reportedly resume operation.

However, Thabane is still under South African police guard, with no word so far how long they will be staying. As The Atlantic's Zach Goldhammer points out, South Africa has large water interests in Lesotho and a history of intervention there. In 1998 (during the presidency of Nelson Mandela), South Africa mounted a full-scale invasion of the country after a disputed election exploded in violence.

Thankfully, this dispute has not seen anything like that level of chaos and violence. With luck, it will stay that way.