MASERU, Jan 25 (ips) - Lesotho's ousted King Moshoeshoe II was on Wednesday reinstated in a colourful ceremony attended by thousands of his supporters.
Moshoeshoe, who was dethroned by a military government in 1990, entered the Setsoto stadium accompanied by men on horse back and was greeted by loyalists who went wild, ululating and dancing.
The 55-year-old Bereng Seeiso, alias Moshoeshoe II, was enthroned by chief justice Lebona Kheola following his son's abdication. The ceremony was witnessed by presidents Sir Kitumile Masire of Botswana and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
South Africa was represented by acting foreign affairs minister Steve Tswete, on behalf of first vice president, Thabo Mbeki. Swngdom in February last year.
In August, King Letsie III toppled the elected government of prime minister Ntsu Mokhehle in a royal coup, while promising to bring his father, Moshoeshoe, back from exile in Britain.
Significant pressure from the presidents of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe forced Letsie to back down and allow the reinstatement of Mokhehle's government.
Addresing the occassion, Moshoeshoe thanked the regional guarantors of a memorandum of understanding, under whose terms Letsie III formally abdicated Wednesday in favour of his father.
Moshoeshoe's return was made possible by Lesotho's parliament and senate which passed a bill, prepared by the attorney general with help of legal experts from Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, in December.
''I'm happy that Moshoeshoe is back at last,'' said an ebullient Alfred Mpoi, who travelled more than 80 km to witness the ceremony. ''The only problem is that our monarchy is highly politicised and if this can stop, things will go back to normality.''
But others, like a spokesman for the powerful construction and allied workers union (Cawule), disagree.
The official, who refused to be named, said ''we don't know what the government has in mind by reintstating Moshoeshoe. Why was he dethroned in the first place? Even todate no one knows why he was ousted. What people know is that the King had appealed against a commission that was set up by Mokhehle to investigate events that led to his dethronement.''
CAWULE, an affiliate of the Lesotho council of non-governmental organisation (LCN), has been advocating for a referundum on the monarchy issue.
Defending itself, Mokhele's elected government says it reinstated Moshoeshoe solely to help restore peace and stability in the tiny mountain kingdom plagued by unrest within the security forces.
Last year the country's deputy prime minister was killed by mutinous soldiers.
Former King Letsie's ''royal coup'' was supported by the opposition and key sections of the army.