Kingdom of Lesotho
Sovereign: King Letsie III (1996)
Prime Minister: Tom Thabane (2012)
Total area: 11,718 sq mi (30,350 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 1,942,008
(growth rate: 0.34%); birth rate: 25.92/1000; infant mortality rate:
50.48/1000; life expectancy: 52.65
Capital and largest city (2011 est.):
Monetary unit: Maluti
Current government officials
English, Sesotho (both official); Zulu,
Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other
Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Independence Day, October 4
Literacy rate: 89.6% (2010 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013
est.): $4.265 billion; per capita $2,200. Real growth rate:
4.1%. Inflation: 5.0%. Unemployment: 25% (2008).
Arable land: 10.14%. Agriculture: corn, wheat, pulses,
sorghum, barley; livestock. Labor force: 874,200 (2013); 86%
of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly
35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa; industry
and services 14%. Industries: food, beverages, textiles,
apparel assembly, handicrafts, construction, tourism. Natural
resources: water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand,
clay, building stone. Exports: $941.2 million (2013
est.): manufactures 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool
and mohair, food and live animals. Imports: $2.148
billion (2013 est.): food; building materials, vehicles,
machinery, medicines, petroleum products. Major trading
partners: U.S., Canada, UK, Hong Kong, China, India, South
Korea, Germany (2004).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines
in use: 43,100 (2012); mobile cellular: 1.312 million (2011). Broadcast media: 1 state-owned TV station and 2 state-owned radio stations; government controls most private broadcast media; satellite TV subscription service available; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters obtainable (2008). Internet Service Providers
(ISPs): 11,030 (2012). Internet users: 76,800 (2009).
Transportation: Railways: none. Highways: total: 5,940 km; paved: 1,069 km;
unpaved: 4,871 km (2011). Ports and harbors: none.
Airports: 24 (2013).
International disputes: South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration.
Major sources and definitions
Mountainous Lesotho, the size of Maryland, is
surrounded by the Republic of South Africa.
Parliamentary constitutional monarchy.
Lesotho (formerly Basutoland) was constituted as a
native state under British protection by a treaty signed with the native
chief Moshoeshoe in 1843. It was annexed to Cape Colony in 1871, but in
1884 it was restored to direct control by the Crown. The colony of
Basutoland became the independent nation of Lesotho on Oct. 4, 1966, with
King Moshoeshoe II as sovereign.
In the 1970 elections, Ntsu Mokhehle, head of
the Basutoland Congress Party, claimed a victory, but Prime Minister
Leabua Jonathan declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution,
and arrested Mokhehle. King Moshoeshoe II was briefly exiled.
After the king refused to approve the
replacement in Feb. 1990 of individuals dismissed by Justin Metsino
Lekhanya, the chairman of the military council, the latter stripped the
king of his executive power. Then in early March, Lekhanya sent the king
into exile. In November, the king was dethroned, and his son was sworn in
as King Letsie III.
Lekhanya was himself forced to resign in April
1991, and Col. Ramaema became the new chairman in May. In Jan. 1995, he abdicated in favor of his father
, Moshoeshoe II. Letsie again
became crown prince. In 1996, however, King Moshoeshoe died in an
automobile accident, and Letsie again assumed the throne.
In fall 1998, hundreds of demonstrators
protested for weeks in front of the king's palace, claiming voting fraud
in the May elections that put Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in power.
They demanded that the government step down and hold new elections. Troops
from South Africa and Botswana entered the country to stop the riots and
put down an army mutiny. In 2002, Mosisili was reelected under a revised
political system that gave opposition parties a larger role in
Lesotho faces one of the highest rates of HIV
infection in the world.
New Prime Minister Is Appointed
On June 8, 2012, Tom Thabane assumed office as the new prime minister. He replaced Pakalitha Mosisili.
Thabane served in Mosisili's government from 1998 to 2006 and was a member of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party. However, in 2006, he split from the LCD and formed an opposition party, the All Basotho Convention. After the May 2012 parliamentary election, he formed a coalition with other parties and was appointed prime minister.
See also Encyclopedia: Lesotho.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes:
Information Please® Database, © 2012 Pearson
Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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