Lesotho

Muso oa Lesotho
Kingdom of Lesotho
Flag of Lesotho Coat of arms of Lesotho
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Khotso, Pula, Nala"  (Sotho)
"Peace, Rain, Prosperity"
Anthem: Lesotho Fatse La Bontata Rona
Location of Lesotho
Capital Maseru
Largest city Maseru
Official language Sotho, English
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - King Letsie III
 - Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili
Independence  
 - from the United Kingdom October 4 1966 
Area
 - Total 30,355 km² (140th)
11,717 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
Population
 - July 2005 estimate 1,795,0001 (146th)
 - 2004 census 1,861,959
 - Density 59/km² (138th)
153/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $4.996 billion (150th)
 - Per capita $2,113 (139th)
HDI  (2003) 0.494 (low) (149th)
Currency Loti (LSL)
Time zone (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .ls
Calling code +266
1 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.

Lesotho (pronounced [lɪˈsuːtu]), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a land-locked country, entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Formerly Basutoland, it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho roughly translates into "the land of the people who speak Sotho."

Contents

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History

The earliest inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by Bantu-speaking tribes during Bantu migrations.

The present Lesotho emerged as a single polity (state) under paramount chief Moshoeshoe I in 1822; it was recognized by Britain on 13 December 1843, and on 12 March 1868 became the High Commission Territories. On 30 April 1965 it was granted autonomy. Its name changed when Lesotho gained full independence from the United Kingdom on October 4, 1966.

In January 1970 the ruling Basotho National Party (BNP) lost the first post-independence general elections, with 23 seats to the Basutoland Congress Party's 36. Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan refused to cede power to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP), declared himself Tono Kholo (Sesotho translation of prime minister), and imprisoned the BCP leadership.

The BCP began a rebellion and then received training in Libya for its Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) under the pretence of being Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) soldiers of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). Deprived of arms and supplies by the Sibeko faction of the PAC in 1978, the 178-strong LLA was rescued from their Tanzanian base by the financial assistance of a Maoist PAC officer but launched the guerilla war with a handful of old weapons. The main force was defeated in northern Lesotho and later guerrillas launched sporadic but usually ineffectual attacks. The campaign was severely compromised when BCP's leader, Ntsu Mokhehle, went to Pretoria. In the early 1980s, several Basotho who sympathized with the exiled BCP were threatened with death and attacked by the government of Leabua Jonathan. In September 1981 Edgar Mahlomola Motuba was taken from his home and murdered. A few months later the family of Benjamin Masilo was attacked.

The BNP ruled by decree until January 1986 when a military coup forced it out of office. The Military Council that came to power granted executive powers to King Moshoeshoe II, who was until then a ceremonial monarch. But in 1987 the King was forced into exile after a falling out with the army. His son was installed as King Letsie III.

The chairman of the military junta, Major General Justin Metsing Lekhanya, was ousted in 1991 and replaced by Major General Elias Phisoana Ramaema, who handed over power to a democratically elected government of the BCP in 1993. Moshoeshoe II returned from exile in 1992 as an ordinary citizen. After the return to democratic government, King Letsie III tried unsuccessfully to persuade the BCP government to reinstate his father (Moshoeshoe II) as head of state.

In August 1994, Letsie III staged a coup which was backed by the military and deposed the BCP government. The new government did not receive full international recognition. Member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) engaged in negotiations to reinstate the BCP government. One of the conditions Letsie III put forward for this was that his father should be re-installed as head of state. After protracted negotiations, the BCP government was reinstated and Letsie III abdicated in favor of his father in 1995. But Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident in 1996 and was again succeeded by his son.

In 1997, the ruling BCP split over leadership disputes. Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle formed a new party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), and was followed by a majority of Members of Parliament, which enabled him to form a new government. Pakalitha Mosisili succeeded Mokhehle as party leader and the LCD won the general elections in 1998. Although the elections were pronounced free and fair by local and international observers and a subsequent special commission appointed by SADC, the opposition political parties rejected the results.

Opposition protests in the country intensified, culminating in a peaceful demonstration outside the royal palace in August 2000. Exact details of what followed are greatly disputed and it remain contented even within South Africa, but in September that year, a SADC task force operating on orders of unclear provenance entered the capital Maseru. While the Botswana Defence Force troops were welcomed, tensions with South African National Defence Force troops were high, resulting in fighting. Incidences of sporadic rioting intensified when South African troops hoisted a South African flag over the Royal Palace. By the time the SADC forces withdrew in May 1999, much of Maseru lay in ruins, and the southern provincial capital towns of Mafeteng and Mohale's Hoek had seen the loss of over a third of their commercial real estate. A number of South Africans and Sothos also died in the fighting.

An Interim Political Authority (IPA), charged with reviewing the electoral structure in the country, was created in December 1998. The IPA devised a proportional electoral system to ensure that the opposition would be represented in the National Assembly. The new system retained the existing 80 elected Assembly seats, but added 40 seats to be filled on a proportional basis. Elections were held under this new system in May 2002, and the LCD won again, gaining 54% of the vote. But for the first time, opposition political parties won significant numbers of seats, and despite some irregularities and threats of violence from Major General Lekhanya, Lesotho experienced its first peaceful election. Nine opposition parties now hold all 40 of the proportional seats, with the BNP having the largest share (21). The LCD has 79 of the 80 constituency-based seats. Although its elected members participate in the National Assembly, the BNP has launched several legal challenges to the elections, including a recount; none has been successful.

Pakalitha Mosisili is the current Prime Minister.

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Politics

The Lesotho Government is a constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili, is head of government and has executive authority. The king serves a largely ceremonial function; he no longer possesses any executive authority and is proscribed from actively participating in political initiatives.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) controls a majority in the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament); the Basotho National Party (BNP), Lesotho People's Congress, and the National Independent Party are among the nine opposition parties represented.

The upper house of parliament, called the Senate, is composed of 22 principal chiefs whose membership is hereditary, and 11 appointees of the king, acting on the advice of the prime minister.

The constitution provides for an independent judicial system, made up of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, Magistrate's Courts, and traditional courts that exist predominantly in rural areas. All but one of the Justices on the Court of Appeal are South African jurists. There is no trial by jury; rather, judges make rulings alone, or, in the case of criminal trials, with two other judges as observers.

The constitution also protects basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of religion.

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Administrative divisions

Districts of Lesotho.
Districts of Lesotho.

Administratively, Lesotho is divided into ten districts, each headed by a district administrator. Each district has a capital known as a camptown.

  • Berea
  • Butha-Buthe
  • Leribe
  • Mafeteng
  • Maseru
  • Mohale's Hoek
  • Mokhotlong
  • Qacha's Nek
  • Quthing
  • Thaba-Tseka

The districts are further subdivided into wards, which are presided over by hereditary chiefs and administered by various local government structures whose nature depends on whether the ward is in an urban or rural area.


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Geography

Satellite image of Lesotho, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Satellite image of Lesotho, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Map of Lesotho
Map of Lesotho

Lesotho covers 30,355 square kilometres (11,720 sq mi). The most notable geographic fact about Lesotho, apart from its status as an enclave, is that it is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point is 1,400 metres (4,593 ft), and over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,900 ft).

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Climate

Due to its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year. Most of the rain falls as summer thunderstorms. Maseru and surrounding lowlands often reach 30°C (86°F) in summer. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to -7°C (19°F)and the highlands to -18°C (0°F) at times. Snow is common in the deserts and low valleys between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.


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Economy

Malealea, Lesotho landscape
Malealea, Lesotho landscape

Lesotho's economy is based on exports of water and electricity sold to South Africa, manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, and to some extent the earnings of laborers employed in South Africa. Lesotho also exports diamonds, wool, mohair, clothing, and footwear. One of Levi's jeans manufacturing facilities is located there. Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The majority of households subsist on farming or migrant labor, primarily miners who remain in South Africa for 3 to 9 months. The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earns some income through crop cultivation or animal husbandry, with over half the country's income coming from the agricultural sector.

River Makhaleng Gorges in the Highlands of Lesotho
River Makhaleng Gorges in the Highlands of Lesotho

Water is Lesotho's only significant natural resource. It is exploited through the 20-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which began in 1986. The LHWP is designed to capture, store, and transfer water from the Orange River system to South Africa's Free State and greater Johannesburg area, which features a large concentration of South African industry, population, and agriculture. Completion of the first phase of the project has made Lesotho almost completely self-sufficient in the production of electricity and generated approximately $24 million annually from the sale of electricity and water to South Africa. The World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, and many other bilateral donors financed the project. Lesotho has taken advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to become the largest exporter of garments to the US from sub-Saharan Africa. Exports totaled over $320 million in 2002. Employment reached over 50,000, marking the first time that manufacturing sector workers outnumbered government employees. Asian investors own most factories.

Lesotho has nearly 6,000 kilometers of unpaved and modern all-weather roads. There is a short, freight rail line linking Lesotho with South Africa that is owned and operated by South Africa.

The official currency is the loti (plural: maloti), but can be used interchangeably with he South African rand. Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, and South Africa also form a common currency and exchange control area known as the Common Monetary Area (CMA). The loti is at par with the rand, while one hundred lisente equal one loti.

Lesotho is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), in which tariffs have been eliminated on the trade of goods between other member countries Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland.

Lesotho has received economic aid from a variety of sources, including the United States, the World Bank, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Germany.

Tourism is a slowly growing industry. A ski resort recently opened in the high Maluti mountains is drawing tourists from South Africa.

Significant levels of child labour exist in Lesotho, and the country is in the process of formulating an Action Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (APEC). This is expected to be adopted in the period 2006-2007.

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HIV/AIDS

A house in Lesotho.
A house in Lesotho.
Malealea, situated in a remote part of Western Lesotho.
Malealea, situated in a remote part of Western Lesotho.

With a shortage of trained personnel and medical supplies, Lesotho is severely afflicted by HIV/AIDS. According to recent estimates, the prevalence is about 29%, one of the highest in the world. The United Nations projects that this will rise to 36% within 15 years, resulting in a sharp drop in life expectancy. According to the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics, in 2001 life expectancy was estimated at 48 years for men and 56 for women. Recent statistics estimate about 37 years. Many children have lost parents. Traditionally lavish funerals leave survivors with another burden.

The government of Lesotho was initially slow to recognize the scale of the crisis, and its efforts to date in combating the spread of the disease have had limited success. In 1999, the government finalized its Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, a diagram for addressing the education, prevention, counseling, and treatment needs of the populace. In late 2003, the government announced that it was forming a new National AIDS Commission to coordinate society-wide anti-AIDS activities. Also in 2003 the government hosted a SADC Extraordinary Summit on HIV/AIDS.

In 2005/2006, programs for the distribution of anti-retrovirals have been initiated. Oone such program is in Hlotse, Leribe at Motebang Hospital. However, such programs remain limited in resources and have relatively few participants.

The government has also started a proactive program called "know your status" to test for HIV everyone in the country who wants to be tested. The program is funded by the Clinton Foundation and aims to start in June of 2006. Bill Clinton and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited Lesotho in July 2006 to assess its fight against AIDS. Dubbed "the two Bills" by the media, the two men visited the Mafeteng Hospital which is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the capital, Maseru, to assess progress in public health endeavours funded by their respective foundations.

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Foreign relations

The flag used by Lesotho until October 2006.
The flag used by Lesotho until October 2006.
A gorge in Lesotho.
A gorge in Lesotho.

Lesotho's geographic location makes it extremely vulnerable to political and economic developments in South Africa. It is a member of many regional economic organizations including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). It is also active in the United Nations (UN), the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, and many other international organizations.

South Africa, the United States, Libya, Ireland, China, and the European Union all currently retain resident diplomatic missions in Lesotho. The British High Commission closed in 2005 and the UK is now represented in Lesotho by its High Commissioner resident in South Africa. The UN is represented by a resident mission as well, including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, WFP, and UNAIDS.

Historically, Lesotho has maintained generally close ties with the United Kingdom (Wales in particular), Germany, the United States and other Western states. Although it in 1990 broke relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and re-established relations with Taiwan, it later restored ties with the PRC.

Lesotho also recognises the State of Palestine. In the past, it was a strong public supporter of the end of apartheid in South Africa and granted a number of South African refugees political asylum during the apartheid era.

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Culture

Traditional musical instruments include lekolulo, a kind of flute used by herding boys, setolo-tolo, played by men using their mouth, and the women's stringed thomo.

The national anthem of Lesotho is "Lesotho Fatše La Bo-ntata Rona," which literally translates into "Lesotho, Land Of Our Fathers."

The Morija Arts & Cultural Festival is a prominent Sotho music festival. It is held annually in the historical town of Morija, where the first missionaries arrived in 1833.

and List of writers from Lesotho
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See also

Basotho-horseman with traditional blanket.
Basotho-horseman with traditional blanket.
[edit]

External links

Blogs
Government
Kingdomgateway
News
Overviews
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Current monarchies
African: Lesotho | Morocco () | Swaziland (*)
Asian: Bahrain () | Bhutan (*) | Brunei (*) | Cambodia (!) | Japan | Jordan () | Kuwait () | Malaysia (!) | Nepal | Oman (*) | Qatar (*) | Saudi Arabia (*) | Thailand | Tonga | United Arab Emirates (!)
Commonwealth Realms: Antigua and Barbuda | Australia | Bahamas | Barbados | Belize | Canada | Grenada | Jamaica | New Zealand | Papua New Guinea | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Solomon Islands | Tuvalu | United Kingdom
Other European Monarchies (including the EU): Andorra (!) | Belgium | Denmark | Liechtenstein () | Luxembourg | Monaco () | Kingdom of the Netherlands | Norway | Spain | Sweden | Vatican City (Holy See) (*!)
* absolute monarchy, semi-constitutional monarchy, ! electoral monarchy

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