Lesotho was originally inhabited by the San people until
about 1820. Then people came from the north in the people
migrations of Bantu people to the south called mfecane
('the great mess'). Around 1830, King Moshoeshoe united in
the Sotho people and founded a kingdom that withstood
numerous attacks from neighboring Zulu and Ndebele. At the
same time, a new threat emerged, the Boers who emigrated
from the Cape Colony to found their own republics, the
Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The latter's expansion
plans prompted Moshoeshoe to ask for British protection. In
1868, Lesotho became a British protectorate, and in 1871 it
was incorporated with the Cape Colony, triggering rebellion
among the Basotho people. In 1884, therefore, the British
established Lesotho's own protectorate, Basutoland,
which in 1910 entered into a customs union with the newly
formed South African Union. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Lesotho.
The first political organization was formed in 1952, the
Basutoland Congress Party (BCP, later the
Basotho Congress Party), which had strong support among
the tens of thousands of Lesotho migrant workers in the
mines in South Africa. The party won the first election to
the Legislative Council in 1960, but in the first elections
for independence in 1966, when Basutoland became Lesotho,
the Conservative and South Africa- supported Basutoland
National Party (GDP, later the Basotho National
Party) prevailed. In the next elections in 1970, BCP
won, but the government annulled the elections and
introduced a state of emergency. BCP made a failed coup
attempt in 1974 and then worked in exile in South Africa.
Lesotho was now ruled unanimously by the GDP leader, the
chief and the prime minister Leabua Jonathan. Although
Lesotho was dependent on South Africa, Jonathan began to
criticize the apartheid policy and speak out for the
liberation movement ANC, which was given a sanctuary in
Lesotho. Following a South African raid against the ANC in
Maseru in December 1982, Jonathan refused to sign a military
pact with South Africa, but was deposed by a military coup
on January 15, 1986, after South Africa closed the border. A
military council under Justin Lekhanya took over.
When King Moshoeshoe II in 1990 demanded real political
influence, he was deposed by the Military Council, who
instead appointed his son as successor named Letsie III. In
1991, political parties were allowed, and in 1993 a civilian
government was formed by the BCP electorate after the first
free elections since 1970. Despite democratization, Lesotho
is still characterized by the powers and privileges of the
king's princes. Most are poor, and their economic situation
is only alleviated by labor migration to South Africa.
After internal turmoil due to military and police
discontent, King Letsie III in 1994 seized power in a coup,
probably for the purpose of reinstating the father to the
throne. However, he was forced, after international
pressure, to give up and reinstate the government. Letsie
III abdicated in 1995 in favor of his father, but when he
died in a traffic accident the following year, Letsie
returned to the throne.
Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle left the BCP in 1997 and
formed the party Lesotho Congress for Democracy
(LCD), which won landslide victories in the 1998, 2002 and
2007 elections. The uprising was fought by troops from
neighboring South Africa and Botswana. In 2002, a new
electoral system was introduced in which the 80 directly
elected members of the National Assembly were extended by
40, who are elected through proportional elections.
After three years of drought, in February 2004, the
government announced a state of emergency and appealed for
increased food aid. Paradoxically, a month later the
irrigation and electrification project Lesotho Highlands
Water Project was inaugurated; The water in the mountain
areas is the country's most important natural resource and
both electricity and water are exported to South Africa.
Lesotho also suffered severe drought in 2007.
In April 2009, a group of men opened fire on Prime
Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who, however, escaped unharmed.
The state of the country had then been troubled since the
opposition criticized by the 2007 parliamentary elections,
despite repeated mediation attempts by Botswana's former
president Ketumile Masire.
After several years of internal disputes and two
outbursts, the ruling party LCD was hit by yet another
resignation in 2012, when Pakalitha Mosisili chose to form a
new party, the Democratic Congress (DC), which
became the largest party in the parliamentary elections that
year. However, the prime minister at the head of a coalition
government became Tom Thabane, leader of the All Basotho
Convention (ABC), one of the parties formed by
outbreaks from LCD. To prevent conflicts of the kind that
followed the 2007 elections, the government and opposition
had agreed a new electoral law the year before.
Thabane fled to South Africa in 2014 after an alleged
coup attempt. Prior to that, LCD had threatened with a vote
of no confidence, after which Thabane suspended Parliament.
Following mediation from South Africa, a new election was
announced, which was held in February 2015. This resulted in
DC retaining the position as the largest party and Mosisili
being able to form government again. In 2017, the Mosisili
government lost a vote of confidence in Parliament. In the
subsequent election, ABC won and Thabane became prime
Lesotho is one of the countries in the world most
affected by HIV/AIDS. The already vulnerable economic
situation was severely aggravated by the financial crisis of
2008–09, not least because many miners had to leave their
jobs in South Africa.