Capital : Maseru/Moseru
Size: 11 700 sq m Popn: 1836 000
This small Commonwealth country is entirely surrounded by South Africa. The Basotho, a Bantu people, driven south by the rise of the Zulu nation, arrived and mixed with the San bushmen during the C18th and 19th. In 1827, Moshoeshoe I established the powerful Sotho kingdom over the Basotho. He was forced to cede fertile areas to the Boers in 1868 but acquired British protection and the country became a protectorate in 1868. After his death in 1870, Basutoland was annexed to Cape Colony, a Dutch settlement that had been brought under British control in 1806. It became a protectorate again and a High Commission Territory from 1883-1966.
The BCP, founded in 1952, won most elected seats in the Basutoland National Council in 1960 and was narrowly elected to lead the National Assembly under Chief Leabua Jonathan's BNP (Basotho National Party) in 1965. Chief Jonathan became Prime Minister in 1966 with King Moshoeshoe II as head of state but the young King wanted more political power. He was put under house arrest and exiled for nearly a year but opposition to Chief Jonathan grew and in 1974, the BCP's military wing, the Lesotho Liberation Army, launched its first attacks, allegedly with South African support. Chief Jonathan tried to gain popularity externally by condemning events in Soweto, sheltering ANC leaders, refusing to recognise the independence of the Transkei and establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. During the 1980s, South Africa made several raids upon ANC members in Lesotho and imposed a border blockade in 1986 when Jonathan refused to give them up. This was serious becaue Lesotho was economically dependent on South Africa and began to run out of food.
Major-General Justin Metsing Lekhanya seized power in a bloodless coup in January 1986, banned political activity, restored the powers of the monarchy (under his own advice), broke with Cuba so that South Africa lifted the blockade, and returned ANC refugees to South Africa. His standing was weakened by his shooting of a student in 1988 and Moshoeshoe II was exiled in 1990 and deposed by the government in favour of his son King Letsie III. In 1991, Lekhanya was deposed by a military coup under Colonel Elias Tutsoane Ramaema. He allowed political parties to operate and Moshoeshoe II returned in July 1992 as tribal chief rather than king. He was succeeded by his son () in 1997.
The population is mostly Basotho with English and Sesotho as official languages and Christianity and traditional beliefs as religions.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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