/leuh sooh"tooh, -soh"toh/, n.
a monarchy in S Africa: formerly a British protectorate; gained independence 1966; member of the Commonwealth of Nations. 2,007,814; 11,716 sq. mi. (30,344 sq. km). Cap.: Maseru. Formerly, Basutoland.

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Introduction Lesotho
Background: Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. King MOSHOESHOE was exiled in 1990. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after 23 years of military rule. Geography Lesotho -
Location: Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa
Geographic coordinates: 29 30 S, 28 30 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 30,355 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 30,355 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries: total: 909 km border countries: South Africa 909 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; cool to cold, dry winters; hot, wet summers
Terrain: mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m highest point: Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m
Natural resources: water, agricultural and grazing land, some diamonds and other minerals
Land use: arable land: 10.71% permanent crops: 0% other: 89.29% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 10 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts Environment - current issues: population pressure forcing settlement in marginal areas results in overgrazing, severe soil erosion, and soil exhaustion; desertification; Highlands Water Project controls, stores, and redirects water to South Africa Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping
Geography - note: landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 meters above sea level People Lesotho
Population: 2,207,954 note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 39% (male 433,229; female 427,926) 15-64 years: 56.3% (male 600,476; female 642,538) 65 years and over: 4.7% (male 43,691; female 60,094) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.33% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 30.72 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 16.81 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/ female total population: 0.95 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 82.57 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 47 years female: 47.8 years (2002 est.) male: 46.3 years
Total fertility rate: 4.01 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 23.57% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 240,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 16,000 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural) adjective: Basotho
Ethnic groups: Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,
Religions: Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Languages: Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 83% male: 72% female: 93% (1999 est.) Government Lesotho
Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho conventional short form: Lesotho former: Basutoland
Government type: parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Capital: Maseru Administrative divisions: 10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka
Independence: 4 October 1966 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 4 October (1966)
Constitution: 2 April 1993
Legal system: based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: King LETSIE III (since 7 February 1996); note - King LETSIE III formerly occupied the throne from November 1990 to February 1995, while his father was in exile head of government: Prime Minister Pakalitha MOSISILI (since 23 May 1998) cabinet: Cabinet elections: none; according to the constitution, the leader of the majority party in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister; the monarch is hereditary, but, under the terms of the constitution which came into effect after the March 1993 election, the monarch is a "living symbol of national unity" with no executive or legislative powers; under traditional law the college of chiefs has the power to determine who is next in the line of succession, who shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is not of mature age, and may even depose the monarch
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (33 members - 22 principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the ruling party) and the Assembly (120 seats, 80 by direct popular vote and 40 by proportional vote; members elected by popular vote for five-year terms); note - number of seats in the Assembly rose from 80 to 120 in the May 2002 election elections: last held NA May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2007) election results: percent of vote by party - LCD 54%, BNP 21%, LPC 7%, other 18%; seats by party - LCD 76, BNP 21, LPC 5, other 18
Judicial branch: High Court (chief justice appointed by the monarch); Court of Appeal; Magistrate's Court; customary or traditional court Political parties and leaders: Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Tseliso MAKHAKHE]; Basotho National Party or BNP [Maj. Gen. Justine Metsing LEKHANYA]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Phebe MOTEBANO, chairwoman; Pakalitha MOSISILI, leader] - the governing party; Lesotho People's Congress or LPC [Kelebone MAOPE]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Charles MOFELI]; Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP and Setlamo Alliance [Vincent MALEBO]; Progressive National Party or PNP [Chief Peete Nkoebe PEETE]; Sefate Democratic Party or SDP [Bofihla NKUEBE] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77,
participation: IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ISO (subscriber), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Molelekeng Ernestina RAPOLAKI FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815 telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533 through 5536 chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Robert
US: G. LOFTIS embassy: 254 Kingsway, Maseru West (Consular Section) mailing address: P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho telephone: [266] 312666 FAX: [266] 310116
Flag description: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white, bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner Economy Lesotho -
Economy - overview: Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho's primary natural resource is water. Its economy is based on subsistence agriculture, livestock, remittances from miners employed in South Africa, and a rapidly growing apparel-assembly sector. The number of mineworkers has declined steadily over the past several years. A small manufacturing base depends largely on farm products that support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. Agricultural products are exported primarily to South Africa. Proceeds from membership in a common customs union with South Africa form the majority of government revenue. Although drought has decreased agricultural activity over the past few years, completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 now permits the sale of water to South Africa, generating royalties for Lesotho. The pace of privatization has increased in recent years. In December 1999, the government embarked on a nine-month IMF staff-monitored program aimed at structural adjustment and stabilization of macroeconomic fundamentals. The government is in the process of applying for a three- year successor program with the IMF under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. Lesotho has a marked inequality in income distribution and serious unemployment/underemployment problems that will not yield to short-run solutions.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $5.3 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,450 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 18% industry: 38% services: 44% (2001) Population below poverty line: 49.2% (1999 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 0.9%
percentage share: highest 10%: 43.4% (1986-87) Distribution of family income - Gini 56 (1986-87)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6.9% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 700,000 economically active Labor force - by occupation: 86% of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa
Unemployment rate: 45% (2000 est.)
Budget: revenues: $76 million expenditures: $80 million, including capital expenditures of $15 million (FY99/00 est.)
Industries: food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts; construction; tourism Industrial production growth rate: 15.5% (1999 est.) Electricity - production: 0 kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2000) Electricity - consumption: 100 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 100 million kWh note: electricity supplied by South Africa (2000)
Agriculture - products: corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock
Exports: $250 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: manufactures 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool and mohair, food and live animals
Exports - partners: South African Customs Union 53.9%, North America 45.6% (1999)
Imports: $720 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products
Imports - partners: South African Customs Union 89.5%, Asia 7% (1999)
Debt - external: $715 million (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $123.7 million (1995)
Currency: loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)
Currency code: LSL; ZAR
Exchange rates: maloti per US dollar - 11.58786 (January 2002), 8.60918 (2001), 6.93983 (2000), 6.10948 (1999), 5.52828 (1998), 4.60796 (1997); note - the Lesotho loti is at par with the South African rand which is also legal tender; maloti is the plural form of loti
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March Communications Lesotho Telephones - main lines in use: 22,200 (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 21,600 (2000)
Telephone system: general assessment: rudimentary system domestic: consists of a few landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a minor radiotelephone communication system international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: NA (2002) Television broadcast stations: 1 (2000)
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .ls Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 4,000 (2000) Transportation Lesotho
Railways: total: 2.6 km; note - owned by, operated by, and included in the statistics of South Africa narrow gauge: 2.6 km 1.067-m gauge (1995)
Highways: total: 4,955 km paved: 887 km unpaved: 4,068 km (1996)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: none
Airports: 28 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 4 over 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 1 under 914 m: 2 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 24 914 to 1,523 m: 4 under 914 m: 20 (2001) Military Lesotho
Military branches: Lesotho Defense Force (LDF; including Army and Air Wing), Royal Lesotho Mounted Police Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 526,332 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 283,203 (2002 est.)
service: Military expenditures - dollar $34 million (1999)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of NA%
Military - note: The Lesotho Government in 1999 began an open debate on the future structure, size, and role of the armed forces, especially considering the Lesotho Defense Force's (LDF) history of intervening in political affairs. Transnational Issues Lesotho Disputes - international: none

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officially Kingdom of Lesotho formerly Basutoland

Country, southern Africa, an enclave lying within the Republic of South Africa.

Area: 11,720 sq mi (30,355 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 2,208,000. Capital: Maseru. Almost all of the population are Sotho, a Bantu-speaking people. Languages: Sotho, English (both official), Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, French. Religions: Christianity (official), including Roman Catholicism, Lesotho Evangelical Church, Anglicanism. Currency: loti. About two-thirds of Lesotho's total area is mountainous; its highest point is Mount Ntlenyana (11,424 ft [3,482 m]). The Maloti Mountains in the central northwest are the source of two of South Africa's largest rivers, the Tugela and the Orange. Mineral resources are scant. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the workforce; the chief farm products are corn, sorghum, and wheat. Livestock provides exports (cattle, wool, and mohair). Industries include food processing, textiles and apparel, and furniture. Lesotho is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the king, and the head of government is the prime minister. Bantu-speaking farmers began to settle the area in the 16th century, and a number of chiefdoms arose. The most powerful of them organized the Basotho in 1824 and obtained British protection in 1843 as tension between the Basotho and the South African Boers increased. It became a British territory in 1868 and was annexed to the Cape Colony in 1871. The colony's effort to disarm the Basotho resulted in revolt in 1880, and four years later it separated from the colony and became a British High Commission Territory. In 1964 it declared its independence as a constitutional monarchy. A new constitution, effective in 1993, ended seven years of military rule. At the beginning of the 21st century, Lesotho suffered from internal political problems and a deteriorating economy.

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▪ 2009

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 2,020,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      In the Lesotho drought of 2007, one of the worst on record, some 400,000 people needed food aid, and when by September 2008 there was again no sign of rain, another humanitarian crisis was feared. More than 70% of Lesotho's food was imported, and the steep rise in food and fuel costs put food out of the reach of many. In the period March 2007–mid-2008, the price of the national staple, corn (maize), increased by more than 50%, and cooking oil climbed by more than 100%. The World Food Programme provided free meals to more than 80,000 children at primary school, especially in the rural, mostly mountainous, interior, but a survey carried out by the government and UNICEF in December 2007 found that half the children in the Thaba-Tseka district were chronically malnourished. Most Basotho depended on family members working in towns or in South Africa to send money for their support.

      While Lesotho citizens were not particularly targeted in the outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa in early 2008, the outbreak aroused much concern in Lesotho. The country's HIV prevalence rate of 23.2% remained one of the world's highest; life expectancy fell to only 35 years; and more than 100,000 children had been orphaned by AIDS. The World Bank forecast a reduction in Lesotho's GDP by almost one-third by 2015 as a result of HIV/AIDS. On a brighter note, it was announced in September 2008 that one of the largest diamonds ever found had been discovered at the Letseng mine. In addition, after years of delay the feasibility study of the second phase of the giant Lesotho Highlands Water Project was finally completed.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2008

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 2,008,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      Lesotho again experienced a period of political turmoil in 2007. When Tom Thabane, a leading member of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), broke with the party and formed the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili called a snap election in February. The LCD retained power but with a reduced majority. The ABC, which came in second, and other opposition parties then protested the manner in which seats were allocated to parties on the basis of proportional representation. In June the homes of leading politicians, including two government ministers, were attacked, and for a time the government imposed a curfew in Maseru. It was only when Mosisili agreed that the matter should be sent for arbitration to the Southern African Development Community that the political temperature began to cool.

      Meanwhile, an estimated one in five people faced the prospect of food shortages in late 2007. Planting of crops had declined because of a lack of resources, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic reduced available labour, but the main cause of the food crisis was the drought (the country's worst in 30 years), which early in the year ravaged the low-lying areas west of the mountains, where most crops were grown.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2007

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 2,022,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

 Visits in 2006 to Lesotho by rock star Bono of U2, Bill Clinton, and Bill and Melinda Gates (Gates, Bill and Melinda ) helped publicize the country's poverty and the scourge of HIV/AIDS. With an adult prevalence rate of 23.2% in 2005, an estimated 265,000 people in Lesotho were living with HIV/AIDS. With Lesotho's chronic shortage of nurses and doctors, it seemed unlikely that its “know your HIV status” campaign, offering confidential and voluntary HIV testing and counseling, would reach all households by the end of 2007, as was the aim.

      The textile industry, the country's largest employer, staged a comeback after having been hit by Chinese competition in exports to the American market. Factories reopened after the government advertised the country's goods abroad as an ethical choice. Wages were lower than in South Africa, and the government cut bureaucratic red tape to help encourage the industry, which remained almost 100% foreign-owned, mostly by Asians. Companies that had paid bribes to secure contracts in the massive Highlands Water Scheme, Africa's largest water-transfer and hydroelectric-power project, were prosecuted, with the large Italian construction firm Impregilo being found guilty in the Lesotho high court and fined. A crack in the wall of the rock-filled Mohale Dam sparked safety concerns in February and led critics to say that further phases of the project should not be undertaken until a full inquiry had been held.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2006

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 2,031,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      In early May 2005 Lesotho's Independent Electoral Commission announced that the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy had won most of the 1,000 seats in the country's first-ever municipal election. Voter turnout was only about 30%, however, and for most people the election was clearly an irrelevance in the face of increasing poverty.

       Poverty increased for a number of reasons; agricultural production continued to decline, in part because of endemic soil erosion in the very limited arable land combined with repeated droughts and in part as a consequence of the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the workforce. Up to half a million people in the rural areas of the small mountainous country suffered from food shortages. While a government Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper put the country's unemployment rate at 31%, most observers estimated that more than 70% of the workforce was jobless. Whereas in the late 1980s almost half the gross national product had come from remittances from over 120,000 migrant workers in the South African gold mines, with the retrenchment of such workers, only half that number were employed in 2005. Hopes that the textile and clothing industry would be the key engine of growth were hard hit by the end on Jan. 1, 2005, of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. This led to the closure of a number of factories and put many of the 56,000 jobs in the sector at risk, for while Lesotho still enjoyed duty-free access to the American market under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, it could no longer compete with goods from countries such as China.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2005

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 1,800,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      In February and March 2004, Lesotho briefly grabbed international headlines when Prince Harry, the younger son of Britain's Prince Charles, spent two months in the mountain kingdom, some of it working at an orphanage south of Maseru, the capital. His purpose was in part to give publicity to the related crises of HIV/AIDS and food shortages affecting the small landlocked country. According to UNAIDS, some 360,000 of the 2,000,000 people in Lesotho were living with HIV, and 100,000 orphans had lost parents to HIV/AIDS. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili became one of the first heads of government to be tested publicly for HIV when he launched a free national HIV-testing program, the first in Africa. In May he opened the country's first health centre to provide antiretroviral therapy. A National AIDS Commission was established, but Lesotho lacked the resources and capacity to fight the pandemic effectively.

      By midyear three multinational companies had been convicted of having given bribes in order to secure contracts for the Highlands Water Project. Lesotho's term as chair of the Southern African Development Community's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security ended with nothing having been achieved on the Zimbabwe issue.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2004

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 1,802,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      After years of political crisis, Lesotho enjoyed relative stability in 2003, with the military back in its barracks and the king performing only honorific duties. The first mixed member proportional representation Parliament convened in July and met sporadically thereafter. The government took the lead in trying to grapple with the country's serious socioeconomic problems.

      A harsh winter drought cut cereal production to less than 60% of normal levels. Agricultural production was further reduced as HIV spread among the rural population, many of whom were landless and had no income; considerable quantities of food aid were needed to prevent mass starvation.

      By 2003 Lesotho had one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. An estimated 31% of the adults were infected, and more than 80% of those dying of AIDS-related illnesses were in the productive age group (ages 15–49). Half of all hospital patients were HIV infected, and large numbers of children had been orphaned. Though the government committed about $5.6 million to programs to improve knowledge of the disease and boost prevention efforts and donors and civil society organizations matched that amount, these sums fell far short of what was required. Factors contributing to the spread of the disease were the long periods of time that some 60,000 Basotho men spent away from home working on the mines and farms of South Africa, the belief that having sex with a virgin would cure HIV, and the use of shared knives in circumcision rituals.

      Meanwhile, following the 2002 conviction and sentencing of Masupha Sole—the former chief executive officer of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority—a Canadian engineering company, Acres International, and a German engineering company were convicted of having paid bribes and were fined large sums.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2003

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 2,208,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      After years of delay, general elections were held in Lesotho on May 25, 2002. Many feared a repetition of problems that had plagued the 1998 elections, which were marred by claims of voting fraud, but South Africa and the Southern African Development Community worked with the Lesotho government, the Interim Political Authority, and the Independent Electoral Commission to try to prevent this. The many observer missions found the elections free and fair. The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) retained its majority in Parliament, winning 77 seats in all. The opposition Basotho National Party secured 21 seats, and though the party disputed the final results, there were no violent protests against them.

      The new LCD government faced very serious problems. Half of Lesotho's population lived in poverty. The country had one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, with an estimated 31% prevalence rate, and because of poor harvests, Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili had to declare a state of food emergency in April and appeal for international assistance. The unemployment rate continued to rise, though Lesotho did take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and exports to the U.S. doubled in value.

      The long trial of Masupha Ephraim Sole, the former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, came to an end when the Lesotho High Court found him guilty of having accepted bribes from foreign companies and sentenced him to an effective 18 years in jail.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2002

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 2,177,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      More than two years of wrangling over the way an election should be held was ended in February 2001 when the country's political parties endorsed a plan drawn up by the Independent Electoral Commission for the holding of elections. Preparations for voter registration were then made, and registration itself took place in August and September. An election was to be held in 2002.

      A power struggle within the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy party, which had itself emerged as a breakaway from the Basotho Congress Party in 1997, began with the election of a new national executive committee in January. The election was disputed and referred to the Court of Appeal to settle. At the end of September, the deputy prime minister and minister of law, justice, and constitutional affairs, Kelebone Maope, resigned from the cabinet. He had long been a critic of Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili, and in October he formed an opposition party, the Congress of the People of Lesotho.

      There was much disillusion within the country about the political infighting, which distracted attention from the real issues of poverty and HIV/AIDS. One bright note was a grant of $15,240,000 by the World Bank to the governments of South Africa and Lesotho for a five-year Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Project. This was to protect an area on Lesotho's eastern border and develop small businesses involved with ecotourism. With further retrenchments in the South African mines causing unemployment in Lesotho to reach perhaps 50%, the government saw new foreign direct investment, especially in the textile sector, as one hope for the future.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2001

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 2,143,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      Political stagnation continued in Lesotho throughout 2000. Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government remained in power, while the Interim Political Authority (IPA), on which sat representatives of all political parties, debated alternative electoral systems. Arbitration failed to resolve the impasse, and a political stalemate set in with the LCD arguing again for a “winner-take-all” election system despite having earlier agreed to the IPA's proposal for a mixed system that would include elements of proportional representation. As the end of the 18-month election preparation period approached in May, a sense of crisis developed. Opposition parties called on the king to intervene and create a government of national unity. After intense diplomatic activity the opposition parties accepted that the election had to be postponed, though they continued to blame the LCD and Parliament for this. In return for assurances that the electoral system would be changed, they also agreed that the LCD could remain in office. Stating that there was now no time for an election in 2000, the prime minister announced that it would be held between March and May 2001, but the likelihood of following this timetable appeared remote. Lesotho continued to benefit from the sale of its water to South Africa under the giant Highlands Water Project, which was being funded in part by the World Bank.

      In one of the brighter stories of 2000, Lesotho's 36-year-old King Letsie III ended years of family and public concern when he took a bride, Karabo Motsoeneng, a commoner. The Roman Catholic wedding was held on February 18 in the national sports stadium and was witnessed by thousands of the king's subjects as well as dignitaries from several African countries.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2000

30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 2,129,000
Chief of state:
King Letsie III
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      The aftermath of the military intervention by South Africa and Botswana in September 1998 continued to be felt long after the troops from those two countries were withdrawn in April and May 1999. The intervention left the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government, headed by Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili, in power, but it also established an Interim Political Authority (IPA), on which sat representatives of the 12 major political parties who were to prepare the way for a new election that all parties would accept as free and fair. The IPA spent much time debating alternative electoral systems. The opposition parties alliance wanted a proportional representation system, while the LCD advocated a mixture of that and the existing “winner-take-all” arrangement. During the year the IPA was bedeviled by personality and other feuds, and, as a result, by late 1999 there was still no clarity on when and how the new election would be held.

      With the South African gold mines cutting back on production because of falling prices for gold, large numbers of Lesotho miners lost their jobs. They returned to an extremely poor country in which a large proportion of the population was without work. The task of rebuilding the properties damaged in the 1998 upheaval did get under way slowly, and the government embarked on a privatization program that was criticized by the opposition parties as “selling the family silver” to foreigners.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 1999

      Area: 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 2,090,000

      Capital: Maseru

      Chief of state: King Letsie III

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Ntsu Mokhehle and, from May 29, Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili

      Lesotho in late 1998 suffered its greatest crisis since achieving independence. Political tensions, which had run high for years, boiled over after the general election on May 23. In that election the opposition parties gained 40% of the vote, but the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy Party of Ntsu Mokhehle, the long-standing prime minister, won all but 2 of the 80 contested seats. The three main opposition parties then claimed widespread and systematic fraud and protested to the High Court that they were denied access to voters' rolls and other relevant documentation to prove their allegations. After the court in July authorized their access to the documentation, evidence of irregularities began to emerge, and protests began in early August in Maseru, where crowds besieged the royal palace and urged King Letsie III to use his powers to annul the elections and put in place a government of national unity. But Letsie had been crowned only after accepting a circumscribed role as king, and he refused to act.

      As protests mounted in Maseru, the Southern African Development Community intervened, under South African leadership, and a commission was appointed under Judge Pius Langa, deputy president of South Africa's Constitutional Court, to investigate the allegations of electoral fraud. When the report was released, it found that irregularities had taken place but not on a sufficient scale to suggest that the election results should be annulled.

      Part of the army had by then come out in support of the opposition parties, and senior officers fled into South Africa. In late September South African troops, followed by troops from Botswana, entered the country in response to a request from Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who had taken over from the ailing Mokhehle in late May. They claimed that law and order had broken down and that a military coup was imminent. The South African troops met much fiercer resistance than they had expected as they tried to take control of Maseru and the Katse Dam in the interior. An orgy of looting of shops and businesses in the central business district of Maseru left much of the capital in ruins. Thousands of people fled the country into South Africa, and dissident soldiers moved into the mountains with weapons. After the SADC troops had restored order, negotiations led to an agreement that a multiparty interim authority would be established to hold a new election in 2000.


▪ 1998

      Area: 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 2,008,000

      Capital: Maseru

      Chief of state: King Letsie III

      Head of government: Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle

      Lesotho experienced a troubled year in 1997, one that included a police mutiny and an attempt to dismiss Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle from the leadership of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP). On February 7 about 100 Royal Lesotho Mounted Police seized police headquarters in Maseru in order to force the withdrawal of murder charges against eight of the officers; the charges had been brought against them in 1985, when three police officers were killed. By mid-February some 2,000 of the approximately 3,000 police were on strike, and the government had to deploy troops to recapture police headquarters. Ten police were subsequently charged with having subverted state authority.

      At the beginning of March, the BCP discharged Mokhehle as party leader because he had not performed "effectively and efficiently." Most BCP members of the National Assembly, however, supported the prime minister, and on April 18 the High Court ruled that the BCP decision was invalid. In June, however, BCP dissidents again challenged Mokhehle's position, claiming that at age 78 he was incapable of maintaining a "meaningful and coherent" leadership. On June 6 a violent confrontation took place at Qachas Nek between Mokhehle's supporters and opponents, and two deaths resulted. Mokhehle then announced that he was forming a new party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, and a number of BCP members resigned to join it. Mokhehle was able to continue as prime minister because he had the support of a majority in the Assembly, although opposition parties called his action a coup and demanded new general elections.

      This article updates Lesotho, history of (Lesotho).

▪ 1997

      A constitutional monarchy of southern Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Lesotho forms a landlocked enclave surrounded by South Africa. Area: 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 1,971,000. Cap.: Maseru. Monetary unit: loti (plural: maloti), at par with the South African rand, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 4.54 maloti to U.S. $1 (7.16 maloti = £ 1 sterling). Kings in 1996, Moshoeshoe II and, from February 7, Letsie III; prime minister, Ntsu Mokhehle.

      On Jan. 15, 1996, King Moshoeshoe II was killed in a car crash on a mountain road. (See OBITUARIES (Moshoeshoe II ).) He was the grandson of Moshoeshoe I, the "father" of the Basotho nation. His death came just a year after he had been restored to the throne. His son had been installed as King Letsie III by the military, which had dethroned his father, and had reigned from November 1990 to January 1995. He had abdicated voluntarily in January 1995 in favour of his father. On February 7 Letsie III was crowned again.

      Four prominent Basotho were charged with treason on March 20, accused of having attempted to stage a coup by radio on February 29 and having conspired to overthrow the government between September 1995 and February 1996. The four were Makara Sekautu, president of the opposition United Party; Matsoso Bolofo, a former member of the National Security Service; and Lepoko Molapo and David Jonathan, both former members of the Royal Lesotho Defence Force. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This article updates Lesotho, history of (Lesotho).

▪ 1996

      A constitutional monarchy of southern Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Lesotho forms a landlocked enclave within South Africa. Area: 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 2,050,000. Cap.: Maseru. Monetary unit: loti (plural: maloti), at par with the South African rand, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 3.66 maloti to U.S. $1 (5.79 maloti = £ 1 sterling). Kings in 1995, Letsie III and, from January 25, Moshoeshoe II; prime minister, Ntsu Mokhehle.

      King Moshoeshoe II was formally restored to the throne of Lesotho on Jan. 25, 1995. A bill had been presented to the National Assembly the previous November that provided for the abdication of his son Letsie III and the reversion of the crown to Moshoeshoe while Letsie went back to his former role as crown prince. Addressing a crowd of 10,000 at a ceremony to mark the occasion, King Moshoeshoe II promised reconciliation and peace. A new era had dawned, it was hoped, after a deeply troubled political phase in the country's life. During February the prime minister, Ntsu Mokhehle, announced a number of Cabinet changes, which included the promotion of the minister of education, Pakalitha Mosisili, to the post of deputy prime minister. Also in February, Lesotho concluded an extradition treaty with South Africa. There was concern in both countries about the level of smuggling across the borders.

      Enormous machines completed drilling on the 82-km (51-mi) Lesotho Highlands Tunnel in March. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project was scheduled to deliver water to the arid Vaal River basin in South Africa beginning in 1997.

      At the end of March, the minister of finance and economic planning, Moeketsi Senaona, presented the budget for 1995-96. Revenue and grants were expected to amount to 1,790,300,000 maloti, 13% above the figure for 1994, while expenditure would be 1,608,800,000 maloti. Education, at 335.6 million maloti, was the biggest single item of expenditure.

      In March members of the National Security Services kidnapped several senior officers, including Maj. Gen. Leaboa Seoane and Col. Simon Thaha, and held them for 14 days. The kidnappers demanded their immediate retirement and accused them of attempted murder, corruption, and breach of security laws. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Lesotho, history of (Lesotho).

▪ 1995

      A constitutional monarchy of southern Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Lesotho forms a landlocked enclave within South Africa. Area: 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 1,929,000. Cap.: Maseru. Monetary unit: loti (plural: maloti), at par with the South African rand, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 3.57 maloti to U.S. $1 (5.68 maloti = £ 1 sterling). King, Letsie III; prime minister in 1994, Ntsu Mokhehle until August 17 and from September 14.

      An unruly army and fears of coups caused 1994 to be a troubled year for Lesotho. In January fighting between rival military factions occurred in and around Maseru. Though low pay was the ostensible reason, the conflict was in fact caused by military resentment of the landslide victory of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in the 1993 elections. Fears of a coup receded when South Africa warned that it would seal the border should a coup be carried out. Under Commonwealth pressure the two groups laid down their arms at the beginning of February. In April, however, discontented soldiers kidnapped four ministers and killed Selometsi Baholo, the deputy prime minister and minister of finance. The government's plan to integrate the armed wing of the BCP, the Lesotho Liberation Army, into the army was a primary reason for the troubles.

      In August King Letsie III, in what amounted to a royal coup, dissolved the government of Ntsu Mokhehle and the parliament. When crowds demonstrated in protest outside the palace, soldiers and police fired on them and killed at least four. The king then announced that he was suspending part of the constitution and calling new elections, but the government ignored his pronouncement and worked on. Opponents of the king now demanded that Lesotho become a republic, and five opposition parties petitioned the king to abdicate. Under pressure from other nations as well as from his own people, the king on September 14 officially restored Mokhehle and his government to power.

      (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Lesotho, history of (Lesotho).

▪ 1994

      A constitutional monarchy of southern Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Lesotho forms a landlocked enclave within South Africa. Area: 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 1,903,000. Cap.: Maseru. Monetary unit: loti (plural: maloti), at par with the South African rand, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 3.45 maloti to U.S. $1 (5.23 maloti = £ 1 sterling). King, Letsie III; chairman of the Military Council to April 1993, Maj. Gen. Elias Phisoana Ramaema; prime minister from April 2, Ntsu Mokhehle.

      In January 1993 the government of Lesotho announced that elections, postponed from November 1992, would be held on March 27. Wrangles about the future of the monarchy led King Letsie III to declare that he was willing to step down in favour of his father, deposed king Moshoeshoe II.

      The elections gave a landslide victory to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) of Ntsu Mokhehle, which took all 65 National Assembly seats. In some constituencies the BCP secured up to five times as many votes as the former ruling Basotho National Party (BNP), with up to 80% of the 700,000 voters taking part. UN and Commonwealth monitors reported that the elections had generally been free and fair, although both the defeated BNP and the military claimed they had been rigged. The BCP renounced socialism and declared its readiness to accept a mixed economy.

      Mokhehle was sworn in as prime minister on April 2, and King Letsie III swore allegiance to the new constitution. The new prime minister made various gestures of reconciliation to the opposition parties, but in May the opposition BNP rejected a government offer of two seats in the Senate, insisting that the government was illegitimate. Deposed king Moshoeshoe continued to maintain his right to return to the throne. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Lesotho, history of (Lesotho).

* * *

Lesotho, flag of   country in Southern Africa. A scenic land of tall mountains and narrow valleys, Lesotho owes a long history of political autonomy to the mountains that surround it and protect it from encroachment. Since the Neolithic Period, the mountain kingdom was the domain of Khoisan (Khoisan languages)-speaking hunter-gatherers. In the 19th century the Sotho, led by Moshoeshoe I (Mshweshwe), took control of the region. It remained independent until it became a British protectorate, one of three British High Commission Territories (the others being Bechuanaland [now Botswana] and Swaziland).

      Completely encircled by the Republic of South Africa (South Africa) but separated from it by forbidding mountain ranges, Lesotho has endured decades of turbulent politics, periodic economic crises, and grinding poverty since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1966. Though culturally conservative in the main, the people of the country welcomed the modernization programs begun in the 1990s, which have brought new wealth to the country but at the cost of much environmental damage. Tourism and revenues from the country's diamond industry have also helped to improve material conditions, and the capital, Maseru, has grown to become one of Southern Africa's most attractive cities. Of these changes, Sotho writer Mpho 'M'Atsepo Nthunya remarks,

Maybe if there is one day enough for the hunger to stop, we can stop being so jealous of one another. If the jealousy is no more, we can begin to have dreams for each other.

Land (Lesotho)
      The country forms an enclave within South Africa, bordering on three of the latter's provinces— KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, and Eastern Cape. Like only two other independent states in the world (Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino), Lesotho is completely encircled by another country, on which it must depend for access to the outside world.

Relief, drainage, and soils
 Two-thirds of Lesotho consists of mountains. The highest peak, Mount Ntlenyana (Thabana Ntlenyana), is 11,424 feet (3,482 metres) above sea level. The Drakensberg range (Drakensberg) forms the eastern boundary with KwaZulu-Natal. The Maloti (Maloti Mountains) spurs of the Drakensberg, running north and south, join the main range in the north, forming a plateau from 9,000 to 10,500 feet (2,700 to 3,200 metres) in elevation. This plateau, the centre of the cattle-raising and agricultural industries, is the source of South Africa's two largest rivers—the eastward-flowing Tugela and the westward-flowing Orange—as well as tributaries of the Caledon (Mohokare). Three other important rivers in Lesotho are the Senqunyane in the centre of the country, the Kometspruit in the southwest, and the Matsoku in the northeast. The foothills, with elevations averaging between 6,000 and 7,000 feet (1,800 and 2,100 metres), descend in undulating slopes to the west, where the lowlands bordering Free State rise to elevations of 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 metres). The mountain soils are of basaltic origin and are shallow but rich. The soils of the lowlands derive mainly from the underlying sandstone. Extensive erosion has severely damaged soils throughout the country.

      Precipitation, brought by the prevailing winds, occurs mostly between October and April and is variable; the annual average is about 28 inches (710 mm), with amounts decreasing from east to west. Hail is a frequent summer hazard. Temperatures in the lowlands reach as high as 90 °F (32 °C) in the summer and plunge to 20 °F (−7 °C) in the winter. In the highlands the temperature range is much wider, and readings below 0 °F (−18 °C) are not unusual. Frost occurs widely in the winter, when the Maloti Mountains are usually snowcapped.

Plant and animal life
      Lesotho is largely covered in grasses, although trees also appear on the landscape. Indigenous trees include Cape willows, cheche bush (used for fuel), and wild olives. Other willows and white poplars have been introduced into the country. There are numerous indigenous species of aloes, which are commonly found in the cooler, wet areas. Overgrazing, overutilization, and soil erosion have drastically depleted and altered the grasslands, reedbeds, and woody bush on the slopes. Reforestation schemes have been attempted but have met with limited success.

 In the mid-19th century, zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, and lions could be found in the country. However, hunting and deforestation have mostly eliminated the populations of large mammals; the last lion was killed in the 1870s. Smaller antelope and hares can still be found, and the hyrax, or dassie, is common. Sehlabathebe National Park in the southeastern highlands near Qacha's Nek protects such birds as raptors and such mammals as mountain reedbuck and leopards. Lesotho is the last stronghold in Southern Africa of the magnificent bearded vulture, or lammergeier. Some rivers contain yellowfish and the rare Maloti minnow; trout and the North African catfish have also been introduced.

People (Lesotho)

Ethnic groups
      The Sotho (also known as Basotho) form the overwhelming majority of the country's population. They were originally united by a common loyalty to the royal house of Moshoeshoe I (Mshweshwe), who founded the Sotho nation in the 19th century. Internally, divisions between different chiefdoms—and within the royal lineage itself—have had political significance, but externally a sense of Sotho nationhood and cultural unity remains strong. Lesotho is also home to a Zulu minority, a small population of Asian or mixed ancestry, and a European community that is dominated by expatriate teachers, missionaries, aid workers, technicians, and development advisers.

      Except for English, all the main languages spoken in Lesotho are members of the Niger-Congo language family (Niger-Congo languages). Sotho (Sesotho), a Bantu (Bantu languages) language, is spoken by the majority of the population, though both Sotho and English are official languages in the country. Zulu (Zulu language) is spoken by a small but significant minority. Phuthi, a dialect of Swati, and Xhosa are also spoken in parts of Lesotho.

      Some four-fifths of the population profess Christianity, of which the largest denomination is Roman Catholic; other denominations include Lesotho Evangelical, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Independent churches are also present, together with Zionist sects (small African sects that blend Pentecostal Christianity and indigenous ritual belief). Other religions—including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—are practiced by small percentages of the population, as are traditional religions. Some adherents of Christianity also embrace traditional religious beliefs.

Settlement patterns
      The population density of Lesotho is high for an African state, despite the thinly settled areas of mountainous terrain. A large proportion of the population lives in the western lowlands, which have a much higher population density than the rest of the country as a whole: almost three-fourths of the population lives in the narrow corridor, only 25 miles (40 km) in width, that stretches along the Caledon River. Although not permanently inhabited, the mountain grasslands on the slopes of the high plateau and in the valleys provide summer grazing for sheep and cattle, tended by herders in isolated cattle posts. Some of the deep valleys, such as the Senqunyane, produce crops of wheat, peas, and beans.

      Since independence in 1966, there has been considerable population movement toward the capital city, Maseru. While Maseru is the largest city by far, smaller urban populations inhabit Maputsoe, Teyateyaneng, Mafeteng, and Hlotse. However, about three-fourths of the population is rural.

 Families and clans still cluster together as units in the numerous small rural villages, where social cohesion is strengthened by the persistence of clan and family loyalties. The villages range in size from one large family to four or five extended families, with an average of 30 to 50 nuclear families. The villages, situated on the plains and surrounded by aloes and trees, offer fine views of the rocky highlands.

Demographic trends
      Lesotho's population is growing at a slower rate than that of most other African countries as well as the world. Although the country's birth rate is slightly above the world average, the population growth is limited by infant mortality and death rates that are well above the world average and largely due to the prevalence of AIDS. Lesotho's population is relatively young, with more than three-fifths of the population below age 29. Life expectancy in Lesotho is below the average for Africa and ranks among the lowest in the world but is similar to that of other countries in Southern Africa.

      Lesotho is affected by both temporary and permanent emigration, often in conjunction with employment opportunities. In the mid-1990s, for example, about one-fourth of all working males were employed in South Africa; by the early 2000s, though, the number had declined to about one-fifth. A small number of these migrant workers, who were resident in South Africa before 1996 and who voted in the 1994 South African elections, became eligible for permanent residency status in South Africa.

      Lesotho is a poor country; other than water, its few natural resources are insufficient even for the present population. Lesotho's economy could not be sustained without the benefits it derives from South Africa, with which it forms part of a customs union and shares an integrated communications system and with which it shares the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (Lesotho), a large-scale water transfer scheme that exports water to South Africa and produces hydroelectric power for Lesotho. It has also depended heavily on South Africa for employment for much of the working population. Remittances from this population contributed some two-thirds of the gross national product in 1990, but the proportion had declined to one-third by the mid-1990s as employment opportunities became far more restrictive. In the early 21st century the rate hovered around one-fourth. Official estimates of unemployment among the labour force in Lesotho vary, ranging from about one-third to one-half, with some observers estimating the rate is actually closer to three-fourths.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Although only one-tenth of the country is arable, the majority of the rural population is involved with subsistence agriculture. Agriculture was frequently a major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP), but drought, especially in the 1990s and in the early 21st century, has drastically reduced its contribution to the GDP. The most important crops are corn (maize), sorghum, wheat, beans, and peas. Cattle products have been exported, and wool and mohair are produced and exported. Foodstuffs must be imported, as droughts have largely destroyed summer harvests and livestock. Agricultural development projects are funded by a wide range of agencies, including the World Bank. None, however, have been able to reverse the steady decline in agricultural production since the mid-1960s. Timber cutting is largely for fuel. Fishing (from inland waters) of the common carp, rainbow trout, and catfish also is practiced on a small scale.

Resources and power
      Geologic surveys have revealed little promise of mineral wealth, although kimberlite pipes in the highlands do produce diamonds. A mine at Letseng-la-Terae in Mokhotlong operated briefly, in 1977–82, and in June 1999 an agreement was signed between private interests and the Lesotho government to reopen it; production resumed in 2003. There are known uranium deposits near Teyateyaneng, about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Maseru, but the deposits have not yet been commercially exploited.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project
      Of primary importance to the country is the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), a large-scale water-transfer plan involving Lesotho and South Africa. Although similar plans had been discussed since the 1930s, the LHWP first took shape in the late 1980s and grew in scope in the mid-1990s. The LHWP augments the transfer of the headwaters of the Orange River deep in the valleys of the Lesotho highlands to the river's principal tributary, the Vaal River in South Africa, thus supplying that country with much-needed water while generating hydroelectric power for use in Lesotho.

      The LHWP consists of dams, reservoirs, transfer tunnels, and a hydroelectric power station. The first phase of the project included the construction of the Katse Dam, completed in 1997, and the Muela Hydroelectric Power Station, inaugurated in 1999. The Mohale Dam was completed in 2003, also as part of the first phase, which was celebrated with an official inauguration ceremony in March 2004. The LHWP has already generated income for Lesotho from the water exported to South Africa, and Lesotho has been able to meet almost all of its electricity needs with hydroelectric power produced by the project.

      The LHWP is managed by the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (initially named the Joint Permanent Technical Commission), an organization comprising representatives from Lesotho and South Africa, and has attracted financing from the World Bank, the European Union, and a number of other development agencies. Within Lesotho, the intricacies of the project are overseen by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority.

      The project is championed as being of great significance for the future of the region as a whole and Lesotho in particular, although it has not been without controversy and opposition. The first phase of the LHWP was beleaguered by labour strikes and mired in accusations of corruption and inept management. The project has also been opposed by international environmental organizations, and project officials have been criticized for their treatment of displaced populations throughout the construction process.

      Manufacturing is a relatively new sector of Lesotho's economy, largely because South Africa strongly discouraged competing industries until after the end of apartheid in 1994. The emphasis has been on small-scale enterprises; several industrial estates operate small projects, producing candles, ceramics, furniture, and jewelry. Other activities include weaving, canning, and diamond cutting and polishing. Clothing from wool and mohair, food products, fertilizers, and television sets are also produced. Urban development has stimulated construction and catering and other service industries.

      In the early 21st century the textile industry grew, aided by favourable trade agreements such as the U.S.-led African Growth and Opportunity Act and the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Textiles and Clothing; the sector diminished, however, when certain trade protections expired in 2005, and competition from countries such as China rendered the Lesotho textile sector largely uncompetitive.

Finance and trade
      Lesotho's currency, the loti (plural: maloti), is issued by the Central Bank of Lesotho. The currency was introduced in 1980 as a way to establish monetary independence from South Africa. Lesotho is a member of the Common Monetary Area, comprising Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, and (since 1990) Namibia. This organization allows Lesotho the freedom to set the exchange rate of its own currency, although at the beginning of the 21st century the loti was fixed to the South African rand. Lesotho has a few commercial and development banks.

      Lesotho, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Swaziland are members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which allows for the free exchange of goods between member countries. Payments were made to the member countries by South Africa beginning in 1969 as compensation for those countries' lack of freedom to conduct economic policies that were completely independent of South Africa. Lesotho is also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional organization focused on economic cooperation and integration.

      Lesotho's principal exports are clothing, furniture, and footwear, while its main imports are manufactured goods, foodstuffs, machinery, and transport equipment. The country maintained a trade deficit into the 21st century. Most trade is with countries in Africa, North America, and Asia. The large deficit is offset somewhat by the remittances of Lesotho's migrant workers, external aid, and receipts from SACU.

Labour, taxation, and services
      Many Sotho seek employment in South Africa. In the mid-1990s about one-fourth of all Sotho working males were employed in South Africa; by the early 2000s, though, the number had declined to about one-fifth. The great majority of the temporary migrant workers are men under age 40, but increasing numbers of young women are now seeking employment—legally and illegally—in South Africa.

      The government is the country's largest employer outside of agriculture, with a large share of the government's annual budget consisting of payments to its public employees. In the 1990s more than half of government revenue was derived from the SACU; in the early 21st century this figure fluctuated between two-fifths and one-half. The government has sought to reduce the dependency on SACU revenues by improving its collection of income and sales taxes. Lesotho has several trade unions and associations.

 A growing number of visitors have been attracted to Lesotho's mountain scenery, and the country has done much to develop a tourism base. Roads and pony trails have been developed, trout streams stocked, and hotels and a ski resort built.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Since independence, access to the more remote villages has been made easier by construction of hard-top roads in the lowlands, by the opening of good-quality gravel roads to the highlands, and by the availability of four-wheel-drive vehicles and aircraft that provide domestic flights. However, the small, sturdy Basotho pony is still widely used in the rural areas, along with donkeys and oxen. A main road runs along the western and southern boundary, and a mountain road from Maseru reaches into the interior. These two main arteries are served by short-distance feeder roads, while villages in the mountains are served by bridle paths. Railways are nonexistent, except for a short line that links the capital to the South African rail network. Light aircraft are used extensively for passengers and for transporting mail and freight to the interior. There is an international airport south of Maseru, and several smaller airports are located throughout the country.

      In the early 21st century the number of telephone landlines in the country had more than doubled since the 1990s, but mobile phone usage had grown far more rapidly and surpassed the use of landlines. Internet access has been available since 1998 and is growing in popularity.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      A constitution was written when Lesotho became independent in 1966, but it was suspended in 1970 by Chief Leabua Jonathan, then prime minister, when it appeared that the opposition party would prevail in the country's first postindependence elections. A new constitution, approved by a constituent assembly in July 1991, was not promulgated until the March 1993 general elections. It made Lesotho a hereditary monarchy, with the king as the head of state. The king no longer held any executive authority but was instead a national symbol. The bicameral parliament consists of an elected National Assembly and an appointed Senate. The 120 members of the National Assembly are elected to five-year terms—80 directly, 40 proportionally—while the Senate consists of 22 traditional chiefs and 11 members chosen by the king. Executive power rests with the cabinet, of which the prime minister is the head. The prime minister is also head of the armed forces. Political parties were dissolved in 1986 but reauthorized in 1991.

Local government
      Lesotho is divided into 10 administrative districts, each of which is under the direction of a district council, headed by an administrator. The subdistrict tier of local government is administered through community and municipal councils. District council members are indirectly elected by the community and municipal councils within the district, while community and municipal council members are directly elected by their constituents. Traditional chiefs are also included in district, community, and municipal councils.

Justice, security, and political process
      The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law, with elements of British and customary law also playing a role. There are local and central courts, judicial commissioners' courts, subordinate courts, and a court of appeal, with the High Court as the superior court of record. Magistrates' courts exist in the districts. Lesotho maintains only a small defense force and relies on South Africa for its external security.

      Under customary law, women cannot inherit land. When a family does not have a son to inherit the land, it reverts back to the chief. This practice was amended by the 1979 Land Act to allow women the right to remain on the property should their husbands die before them. Because of the nature of the migratory work patterns of men, women are increasingly becoming the heads of households, but the law has been slow to acknowledge this fact. Women have been elected to the National Assembly, but they constitute only a small minority of the membership, despite effort to increase the participation of women in politics. However, in the country's first local government elections, held in 2005, slightly more than half of the councillors elected were women.

Health and welfare
      Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV/ AIDS infection in the world. Although HIV/AIDS was first detected in Lesotho in the mid-1980s, the government was slow to address it, and the disease quickly spread: in 2001 almost one-third of the population was infected with HIV; within the next few years the rate had decreased slightly, hovering around one-fourth. Women—particularly younger women—account for more than half of all reported cases of HIV infection. Lesotho also has a high number of children orphaned by AIDS, and the number of children living with HIV/AIDS has risen, mainly the result of mother-to-child transmission. Through various national organizations—such as the Lesotho AIDS Programme Coordinating Authority and its successor, the National AIDS Commission—the government has made efforts to combat the AIDS pandemic by making treatment options more widely available, as well as promoting awareness of AIDS-prevention methods and the importance of knowing one's HIV status.

      Apart from AIDS, the main incidences of illness are nutrient-deficiency diseases, venereal diseases, chronic rheumatism, and infections of the respiratory tract, especially tuberculosis. In addition to these common maladies, by the early 21st century Lesotho had experienced an increase in the incidence of psychiatric illness and noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and hypertension, generally attributed to lifestyle changes in the general population.

      There are several hospitals, about half of which are operated by the government, and a number of clinics, health centres, and dispensaries. However, health care delivery is uneven throughout the country, because of geographical obstacles presented by mountainous terrain, as well as some socioeconomic inequalities. The health care system in general is overwhelmed by the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS, and there is a lack of medical supplies and properly trained personnel.

 The capital, Maseru, consists of a modern city centre surrounded by suburbs for the large bureaucracy and for foreign aid and development personnel; shacks and informal settlements dot the perimeter. In the rural villages the walls and doors of many houses are covered with colourful painted designs. The villages themselves consist of clusters of circular or rectangular one-room houses solidly built of turf, Kimberley brick (unburned clay), or dressed stone. Traditionally, the roofs were thatched, but more-modern roofs are made of corrugated iron, as they are in many other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

      The average household usually has two or three one-room houses, the largest one serving as a living and dining area and as the parents' bedroom; the smaller ones are used for kitchen and storage purposes and as sleeping quarters for the children. The house of the chief, or headman, is usually in the centre of the village, protected by that of his principal wife and surrounded by those of his other wives. The lekhotla (open court) is in front of the chief's house; beside it are the kraals (enclosures) for the cattle and stables for horses.

      Primary education is free and compulsory for seven years for all children between ages 6 and 13. Secondary education is provided in two cycles of three years and two years, respectively. Primary and secondary schools remain largely administered by Christian churches, under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Training. Postsecondary education is provided by the National University of Lesotho (1945) and Lesotho Agricultural College (1955), and there are also vocational and educational training centres in the country. Lesotho has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa (about four-fifths of the population).

Cultural life
      The Sotho combine modern and traditional ways, providing continuity in a society that is disrupted by a system of migratory labour. Although undermined by political developments since independence in 1966, traditional authority is still exercised through a system of chieftaincy, extending from the king through the chiefs to the village level. The chiefs are largely responsible for the working and distribution of land, although in certain areas this authority has been curtailed by the Land Act of 1979.

      The contradictions created by Lesotho's lack of economic independence in the face of political independence are reflected in the cultural life of the country. Despite increasing urbanization and the growth of modern institutions and bureaucracy, many Sotho are still interested in building a rural homestead and perpetuating traditional institutions. They also remain loyal to the chieftaincy system. Institutions such as the initiation schools, which perpetuate traditional values, are still significant but are changing in structure.

Daily life and social customs
      Urban life is a blend of traditional and Western culture. In Maseru there are shops and markets that offer regional crafts and goods, as well as modern and Western hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. Many buildings, however, were burned or damaged by looting following the general election of 1998. The city also contains urban villages where tourists can experience traditional life in Lesotho.

      Village life centres largely on the fields, the chief's court, the kraals, the school, the church, and the initiation lodge. Circumcision forms an integral part of the ritualized initiation ceremonies that train boys to take their place as full members of the family, clan, and nation—the three centres of social cohesion. Many young boys spend a large part of their lives as herdsmen, while women and young girls do much of the hard work in the fields. Because of the sharp variations in climate, both men and women wear blankets, often multicoloured, which they use as cloaks. Men and women also wear the typical Sotho hat, which is woven from reeds into conical shapes and has a decorative topknot.

 Village life is dominated by basic agricultural tasks, with heavy responsibilities falling on women. Craftwork is still practiced in the villages and includes pottery, grass weaving (notably of traditional Sotho hats), and the painting of elaborate decorations on the walls of houses. Herders play a traditional musical instrument called the lesiba, a stringed and wind instrument consisting of a string and feather on which the musician blows. Dances such as the “gum boot dance” demonstrate the influence of migrant labour on traditional forms of cultural expression. The more traditional mohobelo is a men's stomping dance that consists of synchronized movements and high kicks. Women perform their own dance by kneeling in a line and beating the ground with their knees.

      Lesotho observes most Christian holidays, including Christmas and Easter. The country also celebrates such secular holidays as Moshoeshoe's Day on March 11 (in honour of Moshoeshoe I (Mshweshwe), the founder of the Sotho nation), Worker's Day on May 1 (see May Day), Heroes' Day and Africa Day on May 25, Independence Day on October 4 (commemorating the day on which the country received its independence from Britain), Boxing Day on December 26, and King's Birthday, which is celebrated annually on whichever day the reigning king's birthday falls. The Morija Arts and Cultural Festival is held annually at Morija, south of Maseru, and provides a showcase for Lesotho's various artists, performers, and cultural groups.

The arts
      The work of Lesotho's artists is prized by collectors. Many artists are active in the country, and the sale of their work is an important part of Lesotho's economy. Many use motifs borrowed from the ancient petroglyphs left by the San people at Ha Baroana, a rock shelter east of Maseru. Contemporary artists include ‘Mathabo Nthako, a female potter who uses traditional African firing techniques to create objects with themes that are religious and filled with subtle humour. Tsepiso Lesenyeho, a painter whose work often depicts village scenes, has earned a following among the Sotho as well as among visitors to the country.

      The Sotho culture enjoys a rich tradition of oral literature that is given expression in folk songs, proverbs, jokes, myths, and legends. The historical traditions and legacy of Moshoeshoe I remain strong, and there is national pride in Lesotho's history of resistance, in the role of the Sotho in building modern Southern Africa, and in the achievements of such writers as Thomas Mokopu Mofolo (Mofolo, Thomas Mokopu), who wrote Western-style novels in Sotho, and such composers as Joshua Polumo Mohapeloa (1908–82).

Cultural institutions
      The government archives and the national library are located in Maseru. Outside the city is the country's most important historic site, Thaba Bosiu, which was the centre of Moshoeshoe I's kingdom. Teyateyaneng, the centre of the arts and crafts industries, is also located outside Maseru.

Sports and recreation
      Sporting activities are extremely popular. Football (soccer) is the most widely played sport in Lesotho, and many of the country's best players play professionally in South Africa. Judo, boxing, and long-distance running are also popular, the first two benefiting from training facilities provided by the police force. Horse racing is important to rural social life.

Media and publishing
      Television and radio have done much to improve communication in Lesotho. The state operates both a television and a radio station and provides programming in Sotho and English. There are also several independent radio stations, and radio and television broadcasts from South African stations and global satellite networks can be received in the country. Lesotho has several weekly newspapers published in Sotho and English. Printing presses at mission stations have made a substantial contribution to the religious and educational literature of Southern Africa and have produced such publications as the newspaper Leselinyana la Lesotho (“The Little Light of Lesotho”), which has been published for more than a century. The country's first daily paper, The Nation, began publication in 1985.

Colin Legum J.J. Guy James Hamilton Cobbe Ed.

      This discussion focuses on Lesotho since the mid-19th century. For a more detailed treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Southern Africa.

      The territory now known as Lesotho was occupied as early as the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) by Khoisan-speaking hunter-gatherers. From about the 16th century, African farmers—the ancestors of the present population—moved across the grasslands of Southern Africa and settled in the fertile valleys of the Caledon River, where they came to dominate the hunters of the region. These stock-keeping agriculturalists belonged to the large Sotho group and were divided into numerous clans that formed the nucleus of chiefdoms, whose members occupied villages.

The Sotho kingdom (1824–69)
      The violent upheavals of the early 19th century among the chiefdoms of Southern Africa intensified in Lesotho in the 1820s. During this turbulent period, known as the Difaqane (Mfecane) (also spelled Lifaqane; Sotho: “crushing”), the members of many chiefdoms were annihilated, dispersed, or incorporated into stronger, reorganized, and larger chiefdoms positioned in strategically advantageous areas. (See Mfecane.)

      The leaders who headed the new chiefdoms had the ability to offer greater protection; one of these was Moshoeshoe I (Mshweshwe) of the Moketeli, a minor lineage of the Kwena (Bakwena). In 1824 he occupied Thaba Bosiu (“Mountain at Night”), the defensive centre from which he incorporated many other individuals, lineages, and chiefdoms into what became the kingdom of the Sotho (subsequently also called Basutoland). Moshoeshoe was a man of remarkable political and diplomatic skill. By cooperating with other chiefdoms and extending the influence of his own lineage, he was able to create a Sotho identity and unity, both of which were used to repel the external forces that threatened their autonomy and independence. Moshoeshoe also acknowledged the importance of acquiring the skills of farmers, settlers, hunters, and adventurers, who increasingly moved across his borders from the south. He therefore welcomed the missionaries from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society as a source of information about the rest of the world when they arrived at Thaba Bosiu in 1833. He placed them in strategically important parts of the kingdom, where they gave the Sotho their first experience with Christianity, literacy, and commodity production for long-distance trading.

      Large numbers of Boer trekkers from the Cape Colony began to settle on the western margins of the kingdom in 1834 and to challenge the right of the Sotho to their land. The next 30 years were characterized by conflict and outbursts of warfare between the Sotho and the Boers. Ultimately, the Sotho lost most of their territory west of the Caledon River, from which the Boers formed the Orange Free State. The British (British Empire), to whom Moshoeshoe appealed for intervention, were unable to resolve the dispute over where the boundary should be drawn.

      Devastating wars in the late 1860s prompted Moshoeshoe to again appeal to the British for assistance, as he feared the dispersal and possible extinction of his people. Sir Philip Wodehouse, governor and high commissioner of the Cape Colony, concerned with the region's stability and British interests in Southern Africa, annexed the kingdom to the British crown in 1868.

      Basutoland remained a British protectorate until Moshoeshoe's death in 1870 (he was buried on Thaba Bosiu). The next year the colony was annexed to the Cape Colony without the consent of Basutoland. The former independent African mountain kingdom lost much of its most productive land to the Boers and its political autonomy to the British. Nonetheless, the Sotho still retained some of their land and their social and cultural independence.

Basutoland (1871–1966)
      Attempts by the Cape Colony administration to disarm the Sotho led to the Gun War (1880–81). The Cape Colony relinquished Basutoland to British rule in 1884, when it became one of three British High Commission Territories in Southern Africa; Swaziland and Bechuanaland (now Botswana) were the other two.

      At the end of the 19th century, mineral discoveries were made; their enormous potential laid the foundation for the creation of the Union of South Africa (1910). In order to acquire cheap labour and to end competition from independent African agricultural producers, landowners and miners encouraged the adoption of policies that deprived the indigenous population of its social and political rights and most of its land. Sotho farmers took advantage of the markets for foodstuffs in the growing South African mining centres, however. They utilized new farming techniques to produce substantial surpluses of grain, which they sold on the South African markets. Sotho workers also traveled to the mines to sell their labour for cash and firearms.

      Lesotho's history in the 20th century was dominated by an increasing dependence on labour migration (migrant labour) to South Africa, which was made necessary by taxation, population growth behind a closed border, the depletion of the soil, and the need for resources to supplement agricultural production. Sotho workers became an important element of the South African mining industry, and Basutoland became the classic example of the Southern African labour reserve, its people dependent on work in South Africa for their survival.

      The British set up a system of dual rule and left considerable power in the hands of the paramount chiefs—Letsie (1870–91), Lerotholi (1891–1905), Letsie II (1905–13), Griffith (1913–39), Seeiso (1939–40), and the regent 'Mantsebo (1940–60)—all of whom were descendants of Moshoeshoe I. Under these leaders, authority was delegated through ranked regional chiefs drawn from the royal lineage and the most important chiefdoms. A system of customary law was adopted, with the land held in trust by the paramount chief for the people, while crucial aspects of local government were also left to the chiefs. The colonial government was headed by a resident commissioner and advised by the Basutoland National Council, which was led by the paramount chief and dominated by his nominated members.

      The British administration was concerned primarily with balancing Basutoland's budget, which it facilitated by ensuring that a substantial proportion of the population worked for wages in South Africa. The local chiefs could do little to halt the increasing social and economic deprivation within Basutoland. Education was left to the missionary societies, and there was little development of economic infrastructure or social services. Between 1929 and 1933 the Great Depression coincided with a massive drought, driving so many people into South Africa that the population in Basutoland hardly increased for a decade.

      Opposition to the colonial system grew, but no organizations were able to topple the colonial administration and its traditionalist allies. The Sotho were unified, however, in their opposition to Basutoland's incorporation into South Africa and their fear that the British might cede the territory to South Africa without consulting them.

      In the early 1930s the British attempted to reduce the number of chiefs, but after World War II (during which more than 20,000 Sotho served for the British in North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East) the development of nationalist parties pressing for independence outweighed the need for reform. Three major political parties emerged at this time: the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP; at independence the Basotho Congress Party) in 1952, under Ntsu Mokhehle; the more conservative Basutoland National Party (BNP; at independence the Basotho National Party) in 1958, under Chief Leabua Jonathan, which was supported by the South African government and was associated with chiefly power and the Roman Catholic Church; and the Marema-Tlou Freedom Party (1963), which was identified with the defense of the powers of the country's principal chiefs.

      The Basutoland Council, in existence since 1903, obtained the right to control the internal affairs of the territory in 1955. The region became self-governing in 1965, and general elections held in that year for a new legislative assembly were dominated by the BNP. On Oct. 4, 1966, when Basutoland received its independence from Britain, it was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho and headed by paramount chief Moshoeshoe II (named for the nation's founder) as king and Chief Jonathan as prime minister. Executive power was given to the prime minister in 1967.

The Kingdom of Lesotho
The first two decades
      In the first postindependence general elections (January 1970), the opposition BCP gained a majority of seats. The results were never released, however, and Chief Jonathan suspended the constitution, arrested leading members of the opposition, and temporarily exiled the king. Resistance to these moves was met with considerable violence, but, after a short delay, Britain accepted the actions of Chief Jonathan.

      The BNP used legislation and violence—and the distribution of state patronage—to silence and control its opponents. In 1974 the BCP attempted to overthrow the regime, but this coup was put down, and Mokhehle, the BCP's leader, went into exile.

      During the 1970s Lesotho received an increasing amount of foreign aid in support of its struggle against apartheid South Africa. The funding helped to increase the pace of modernization and urban development, spur economic improvements in infrastructure, education, and communications, and create a privileged bureaucracy; it failed, however, to alleviate the long-standing problems of poverty and dependence. Thus, although mine wages and payments from the Southern African Customs Union increased in the 1970s, Lesotho was unable to use these revenues productively and remained dependent on South Africa.

      Chief Jonathan criticized South Africa's apartheid policy on numerous occasions through the late 1970s. The government's hostility toward the South African regime became more serious when the country began accepting refugees from South Africa. As part of its strategy to destabilize its African neighbours, South Africa gave support to the armed wing of the BCP, the Lesotho Liberation Army. In December 1982 the South African Defence Force attacked houses in Maseru that it alleged were guerilla bases for the African National Congress. More than 40 people were killed, many of whom were Lesotho citizens. Relations between the governments deteriorated as South Africa demanded the expulsion of South African refugees in Lesotho.

      Differences also began to appear among leading figures within the Lesotho government; one faction advocated a policy more amenable to South African demands. In January 1986 the South African authorities placed severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people across the border, effectively closing it. In response, the pro-South African faction in Lesotho, led by Maj. Gen. Justin Lekhanya, deposed Chief Jonathan and established military rule, making the king head of state.

      When the Military Council banned open political activity and deported a number of South African refugees, South Africa responded by lifting the blockade. In October 1986 Lesotho and South Africa signed the Lesotho Highlands Water Treaty (see above The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (Lesotho)), and the following year a South African trade mission was established in Lesotho. However, Lesotho's economic impasse continued as a recession in South Africa deepened and the South African gold mining industry reduced its production.

Political crisis
      Conflict arose in February 1990 within the Military Council, headed by Maj. Gen. Lekhanya, but King Moshoeshoe II refused to approve several dismissals from the council. He was dethroned and went into exile, and his eldest son, Mohato, was sworn in as King Letsie III. Maj. Gen. Lekhanya was forced to resign in April 1991 after a successful coup led by Col. Elias Tutsoane Ramaema, who lifted the ban on political activity and promised a new constitution. The political and economic crises continued, however, and demonstrations broke out in Maseru in May. General elections first promised in 1992 were finally held in March 1993. The BCP returned to power under the leadership of Ntsu Mokhehle as prime minister. He appointed a commission in July 1994 to examine the circumstances surrounding the dethronement of King Moshoeshoe II in 1990. King Letsie's attempt to dismiss the BCP government in August 1994 proved unsuccessful, and Moshoeshoe was reinstated as king in January 1995. Less than a year later, Moshoeshoe died, and Letsie reassumed the throne.

      Lesotho was heavily affected by developments in South Africa during the mid-1990s and by its own internal political instability. When the international community removed its economic sanctions against South Africa, Lesotho lost its advantage of being within South Africa but not part of it. This, together with the reduced South African demand for Sotho labourers, produced more unemployed and underemployed in Lesotho and increased political volatility and lawlessness there. Severe riots aimed mostly at Asian-owned businesses caused serious setbacks for foreign investment.

      In 1997 the BCP dismissed Mokhehle as leader, and he eventually formed his own party, the Lesotho Congress of Democrats (LCD). The LCD overwhelmingly won the general elections of May 1998, and, upon Mokhehle's resignation, Pakalitha Mosisili became prime minister. Although claims of voting fraud were raised, the election was declared free and fair by many international observers. Opposition parties protesting in Maseru were joined in August by large numbers of jobless youths. The protesters obtained arms, and looting and arson broke out in Maseru and the surrounding towns; much of the capital was left in ruins.

      Faced with an insurrection, the government asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to send troops to Lesotho from South Africa and Botswana to quell the disturbances. Eventually, SADC forces restored order, but not before the majority of businesses and government offices had been sacked or destroyed. In response, South Africa imposed an agreement that called for new elections. Stability was restored, and SADC forces withdrew from the country in May 1999. Although the government that took power in May 1998 was headed by Mosisili and the LCD, representatives from the SADC forced Lesotho to create an Interim Political Authority (IPA), which contained representatives from the country's major political parties and was charged with preparing for the 2000 elections.

Challenges in the 21st century
 The IPA was inaugurated in late 1998 and immediately became embroiled in contentious debate regarding the type of electoral system to embrace. Because of the dissent, the IPA was not able to establish an electoral schedule in time for elections to be held in 2000, and they were postponed. In 2002, when the elections were finally held, the LCD again won the majority of parliamentary seats, and Mosisili was named to a second term as prime minister. In 2006, dissension within the LCD resulted in one of the party's prominent ministers, Thomas Thabane, leaving to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC); many other LCD ministers followed Thabane to the ABC. Nevertheless, the LCD managed to maintain control of the parliament after early elections were called in February 2007. Although the elections were generally viewed as free and fair by international observers, the ABC contested the results but to no avail.

      Meanwhile, local government elections were held in 2005—the first such elections since independence—but were clouded by low voter turnout (less than one-third of eligible voters participated). Later that year the government made an ambitious effort to address the country's growing HIV/AIDS pandemic by offering free HIV testing to the entire population. Although the objective was to reach every household by the end of 2007, the program fell short of its goal, stymied by such factors as a lack of necessary medical staff and the logistics of reaching the many rural and mountainous locations in the country.

      Lesotho also faced other problems in the early 21st century. The continued decline in agricultural production—caused in part by endemic soil erosion in the already limited arable land, as well as by repeated droughts and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the workforce—resulted in chronic food shortages, and widespread poverty and unemployment plagued the country.

J.J. Guy James Hamilton Cobbe Ed.

Additional Reading
The female perspective of everyday life in Lesotho is provided by K. Limakatso Kendall (ed.), Basali!: Stories by and About Women in Lesotho (1995). Colin Murray, Families Divided: The Impact of Migrant Labour in Lesotho (1981), studies the effects of shifting labour migration on family life in three different villages. William F. Lye and Colin Murray, Transformations on the Highveld: The Tswana & Southern Sotho (1980), studies these people, who live in Lesotho, Botswana, and central South Africa. The economy and government policies are discussed in John E. Bardill and James H. Cobbe, Lesotho: Dilemmas of Dependence in Southern Africa (1985); and James Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development,” Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (1990, reissued 1994).The history of the country is analyzed in Stephen J. Gill, A Short History of Lesotho: From the Late Stone Age Until the 1993 Elections (1993); Robert C. Germond (compiler and trans.), Chronicles of Basutoland (1967), a running commentary by French missionaries of the period 1830–1902; Elizabeth A. Eldredge, A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho (1993). Leonard Thompson, Survival in Two Worlds: Moshoeshoe of Lesotho, 1786–1870 (1975); and Peter Sanders, Moshoeshoe, Chief of the Sotho (1975), both analyze Mshweshwe's role in Lesotho's history. L.B.B.J. Machobane, Government and Change in Lesotho, 1800–1966: A Study of Political Institutions (1990); and B.M. Khaketla, Lesotho, 1970: An African Coup Under the Microscope (1971), discuss political issues in the country. An excellent, comprehensive guide to the published material on Lesotho up to the time of its publication is Shelagh M. Willet and David P. Ambrose, Lesotho: A Comprehensive Bibliography (1980).James Hamilton Cobbe

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

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