Kingdom of Lesotho
Area: 30,355 sq. km. (11,718 sq. mi.), about the
size of Maryland.
cities-- Leribe (35,000), Mafeteng (32,900),
Teyateyaneng (22,800), Mohale's Hoek (18,400).
Terrain: High veld, plateau, and mountains.
Climate: Temperate; summers hot, winters cool to
cold; humidity generally low and evenings cool
year round. Rainy season in summer, winters dry.
Southern hemisphere seasons are reversed.
(sing.); Basotho (pl.). Adjective--Basotho.
Population (2007 est.): 1.88 million.
Annual growth rate (2004 est.): 1.4%. (Note: the
population growth rate is depressed by an
HIV/AIDS prevalence rate estimated to be at
Ethnic groups: Basotho 99.7%; Europeans, Asians,
and other (including Xhosa) 0.3%.
Religions: 80% Christian, including Roman
Catholic (majority), Lesotho Evangelical,
Anglican, other denominations; other religions
include Islam, Hindu, indigenous.
and English. Other--Xhosa.
compulsory--None. Literacy (2003
est.)--84.8%. Lesotho has free primary education
mortality rate (2004
Work force (2001 est.): 704,000.
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: April 2, 1993.
Independence: October 4, 1966.
is head of state; prime minister is head of
government and cabinet. Legislative--Bicameral
parliament consists of elected Assembly and
non-elected Senate. Judicial--High
Court, Court of Appeals, Magistrate's Court,
traditional and customary courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 10 districts.
Political parties: Lesotho Congress for
Democracy (LCD), All Basotho Congress (ABC),
Basotho National Party (BNP), Lesotho Peoples
Congress (LPC), National Independent Party
(NIP), Basutoland African Congress (BAC),
Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), Lesotho Workers
Party (LWP), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD),
Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Christian
Democratic Party (CDP), Kopanang Basotho Party (KBP),
National Progressive Party (NPP), New Lesotho's
Freedom Party (NLFP), Sefate Democratic Union (SDU),
Social Democratic Party (SDP), United Party
Suffrage: 18 years of age.
Central government budget (FY 2003-2004 est.): Revenues--$560
GDP (2003): $1.43 billion.
Annual growth rate (2007): 7.2%.
Per capita GDP (2007): $850.
Average inflation rate (2008): 12%.
Natural resources: Water, agricultural and
grazing land, some diamonds and other minerals.
Lesotho is an exporter of excess labor.
Agriculture (2007 est.): 17% of GDP. Products--corn,
wheat, sorghum, barley, peas, beans, asparagus,
wool, mohair, livestock. Arable
Industry (2007 est.): 47% of GDP. Types--apparel,
food, beverages, handicrafts, construction,
Trade (2007): Exports--$437
million; clothing, furniture, footwear and wool. Partners--South
Africa, United States, Botswana, Swaziland,
Namibia, EU. Imports--$661
million; corn, clothing, building materials,
vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum
products.Partners--South Africa, Asia,
Fiscal year: April 1 - March 31.
Economic aid received (2007): $350 million. Primary donors--U.S.,
World Bank, IMF, EU, UN, U.K., and Ireland.
More than 99% of Lesotho's population is
ethnically Basotho; other ethnic groups include
Europeans, Asians, and Xhosa. The country's
population is 80% Christian, the majority of
whom are Roman Catholic. Other religions are
Islam, Hindu, and indigenous beliefs. Sesotho
and English are official languages, and other
languages spoken include Xhosa.
Lesotho gained independence from Britain on
October 4, 1966. In January 1970 the ruling
Basotho National Party (BNP) appeared set to
lose the first post-independence general
elections when Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan
annulled the election. He refused to cede power
to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and
imprisoned its leadership.
The BNP ruled by decree until January 1986 when
a military coup forced them out of office. The
Military Council that came into power granted
executive powers to King Moshoeshoe II, who was
until then a ceremonial monarch. In 1990,
however, 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 Metsing Lekhanya, was ousted in 1991 and
then replaced by Major General Phisoane 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 aimed at the
reinstatement of the BCP government. One of the
conditions put forward by the King for the
return of the BCP government was that his father
should be re-installed as head of state. After
protracted negotiations, the BCP government was
reinstated and the King 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, Letsie III. The ruling BCP split over
leadership disputes in 1997.
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. The LCD won the general elections in
1998 under the leadership of Pakalitha Mosisili,
who had succeeded Mokhehle as party leader.
Despite the elections being pronounced free and
fair by local and international observers and a
subsequent special commission appointed by SADC,
the opposition political parties rejected the
Opposition protests in the country intensified,
culminating in a violent demonstration outside
the royal palace in August 1998. When junior
members of the armed services mutinied in
September, the government requested a SADC task
force to intervene to prevent a coup and restore
stability. A military group of South African and
Botswana troops entered the country in
September, put down the mutiny, and withdrew in
May 1999. Looting, casualties, and widespread
destruction of property followed.
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 there would be opposition 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. For the first time,
due to the inclusion of proportional seats,
opposition political parties won significant
numbers of seats. Elections were held again in
February 2007. Nine parties hold all 40 of the
proportional seats, with the governing
party-aligned National Independent Party (NIP)
having the largest share (21). The LCD has 62 of
the 80 constituency-based seats, and All Basotho
Congress (ABC) holds 17.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Lesotho Government is a constitutional
monarchy. The Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili,
is head of government and has executive
authority. The King serves a largely ceremonial
function; he does not actively participate in
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)
controls a majority in the National Assembly
(the lower house of parliament), with All
Basotho Congress (ABC), the National Independent
Party, and the Lesotho Workers Party among the 9
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. The judiciary is made up of the
Court of Appeal, the High Court, Magistrate's
Courts, and traditional courts that exist
predominately 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, association, and the press; freedom of
peaceful assembly; and freedom of religion.
For administrative purposes, Lesotho is divided
into 10 districts, each headed by a district
Lesotho held its first post-independence local
government elections in 2005 using a quota
system that reserved one-third of electoral
divisions for women candidates. In these
elections, 53% of the victorious candidates were
women. Locally elected officials attended
post-election training while regulations for
local governance were drawn up by the National
Assembly and infrastructure was created.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Letsie III
Prime Minister--Pakalitha Mosisili
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home
Affairs and Public Safety--Archibald Lesao
Minister of Defense--Pakalitha Mosisili (also
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Mohlabi Kenneth
Minister of Education and Training--Dr. Mamphono
Minister of Natural Resources--Monyane Moleleki,
Minister of Local Government--Pontso Sekatle
Minister of Justice, Human Rights and
Rehabilitation, Law and Constitutional Affairs--Mpeo
Minister of Finance and Development
Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Culture--Lebohang
Minister of Public Service--Semano Sekatle
Minister of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives,
and Marketing--Popane Lebesa
Minister of Communications, Science, and
Technology--Mothojoa Metsing, MP
Minister of Health and Social Welfare--Dr. Mphu
Minister of Employment and Labor--Moses Refiloe
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security--Lesole
Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, and
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office--Dr.
Motloheloa Phooko, Senator
Minister of Public Works and Transportation--Ts'ele
Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry,
Cooperatives, and Marketing--Khotso Matla
Assistant Minister of Education and Training--Malijane
Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Food
Security--Ramootsi Mokone Lehata
Assistant Minister of Sports, Gender, and Youth
Assistant Minister of Home Affairs--Lineo Irene
Assistant Minister of Labor and Employment--Matanki
Ambassador to the United States--Mohlomi
Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the
United Nations--Lebohang Fine Maema
Lesotho maintains an embassy in the United
States at 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-797-5533).
Lesotho's mission to the United Nations is
located at 204 East 39th Street, New York, NY
10016 (tel: 212-661-1690).
Lesotho's economy is based on water and
electricity sold to South Africa, manufacturing,
earnings from the Southern African Customs Union
(SACU), agriculture, livestock, and to some
extent earnings of laborers employed in South
Africa. Lesotho also exports diamonds, wool, and
mohair. Lesotho is geographically surrounded by
South Africa and economically integrated with it
as well. The majority of households subsist on
farming or migrant labor. 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
Water is Lesotho's only significant natural
resource. It is being exploited through the
30-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands
Water Project (LHWP), which was initiated in
1986. The LHWP is designed to capture, store,
and transfer water from the Orange River system
and send it 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 U.S. from sub-Saharan Africa.
Exports totaled $437 million in 2007. Employment
reached 40,000. Asian investors own most
Lesotho has received economic aid from a variety
of sources, including the United States, the
World Bank, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the
European Union, Germany, and the People's
Republic of China.
Lesotho has nearly 6,000 kilometers of unpaved
and modern all-weather roads. There is a short
rail line (freight) linking the capital city of
Maseru with Bloemfontein, South Africa that is
owned and operated by South Africa (the
half-mile trunk inside Lesotho is operated by
Lesotho Flour Mills, Ltd.). Lesotho is a member
of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) in
which tariffs have been eliminated on the trade
of goods with other member countries, which
include Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and
Swaziland. With the exception of Botswana, these
countries also form a common currency and
exchange control area known as the Common
Monetary Area (CMA). The South African rand can
be used interchangeably with the loti, the
Lesotho currency (plural: maloti). One hundred
lisente equal one loti. The loti is at par with
According to recent estimates, the HIV/AIDS
prevalence rate in Lesotho is about 23.2%, one
of the highest rates in the world. The United
Nations estimates that this rate will rise to
36% within the next 15 years, resulting in a
further drop in life expectancy. According to
the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics, in 2001 life
expectancy was estimated at 48 for men and 56
for women. Recent statistics estimate that life
expectancy has fallen to an average of 36 years.
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 2000, Lesotho declared
a national emergency as a result of the HIV/AIDS
crisis. In 2003 the Government of Lesotho hosted
a SADC Extraordinary Summit on HIV/AIDS. In 2005
legislation was passed to create the National
AIDS Commission to coordinate society-wide
anti-AIDS activities, which was following by the
launching of a national "Know Your Status"
campaign aimed at achieving 100% testing and
counseling of all Basotho.
The donor community is collaborating with the
Government of Lesotho in a massive effort to
address the HIV epidemic. Key international
stakeholders include components of the U.S.
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),
UN agencies, Irish AID, other international
donors, and dozens of non-governmental
The security force is composed of the Lesotho
Defense Force (LDF--estimated 5,000 personnel)
and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS--estimated
3,000-4,000 personnel). The LDF consists of an
army and an air wing. The LDF reports to the
Prime Minister (who is the Minister of Defense
and National Security), while the Lesotho
Mounted Police Service reports to the Minister
of Home Affairs. There also is a National
Security Service (NSS) for intelligence, which
is directly accountable to the Prime Minister.
Relations between the police and the army have
occasionally been tense, and in 1997 the army
was called upon to put down a serious police
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).
Lesotho also is active in the United Nations,
the African Union, the Nonaligned Movement, the
Commonwealth, and many other international
organizations. In addition to the United States,
South Africa, China, Libya, Ireland (Consulate
General), and the European Union all currently
retain resident diplomatic missions in Lesotho.
The United Nations is represented by a resident
mission as well, including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO,
FAO, WFP, and UNAIDS.
Lesotho has historically maintained generally
close ties with the United States, European
Union member states, and other Western
countries. Although Lesotho decided in 1990 to
break relations with the People's Republic of
China (P.R.C.) and reestablish relations with
Taiwan, in 1993 the nation restored ties with
the P.R.C. Lesotho also recognizes Palestine as
a state, 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. Resident
diplomatic missions include the United States,
Ireland, the European Union, South Africa, China
(P.R.C.), and Libya.
The United States was one of the first four
countries to establish an embassy in Maseru
after Lesotho gained its independence from Great
Britain in 1966. Since this time, Lesotho and
the United States have consistently maintained
productive bilateral relations. In 1996, the
United States closed its resident bilateral aid
program in Lesotho. In 2007, however, the
Government of Lesotho signed a compact with the
Millennium Challenge Corporation to provide
$362.5 million in support over the next five
years to develop Lesotho's water, healthcare
infrastructure, and private sector. An
in-country program to support the President's
Emergency Program for AIDS Relief was
established in 2005 and also includes
representatives of U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease
Control. The Peace Corps has operated in Lesotho
since 1966. About 90 Peace Corps volunteers
concentrate in the sectors of health,
agriculture, education, rural community
development, and the environment. The Government
of Lesotho encourages greater American
participation in commercial life and welcomes
interest from potential U.S. investors and
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Elizabeth Power
(Arrival December 2008)
Management Officer--Craig Anderson
Consular Officer--Karla Brown (Arrival October
Public Diplomacy, Economic, and Political
Officer--Sara E. Devlin
General Services Officer--Christian "Kit" Redmer
Information Management Officer--Norman Bates
Director, Peace Corps--Ted Mooney
The mailing address of the U.S.
P.O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho. Tel: (266)
22-312-666; fax: (266) 22-310-116. E-mail: email@example.com.