Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. The Basuto National Party ruled for the first two decades. King MOSHOESHOE was exiled in 1990, but returned to Lesotho in 1992 and was reinstated in 1995 and subsequently succeeded by his son, King LETSIE III, in 1996. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after seven years of military rule. In 1998, violent protests and a military mutiny following a contentious election prompted a brief but bloody intervention by South African and Botswana military forces under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community. Subsequent constitutional reforms restored relative political stability. Peaceful parliamentary elections were held in 2002, but the National Assembly elections of February 2007 were hotly contested and aggrieved parties continue to dispute how the electoral law was applied to award proportional seats in the Assembly.
population pressure forcing settlement in marginal areas results in overgrazing, severe soil erosion, and soil exhaustion; desertification; Highlands Water Project controls, stores, and redirects water to South Africa
note: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, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected
according to the constitution, the leader of the majority party in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister; the monarchy is hereditary, but, under the terms of the constitution that came into effect after the March 1993 election, the monarch is a "living symbol of national unity" with no executive or legislative powers; under traditional law the college of chiefs has the power to depose the monarch, determine who is next in the line of succession, or who shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is not of mature age
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (33 members - 22 principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the ruling party) and the Assembly (120 seats, 80 by popular vote and 40 by proportional vote; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
last held on 17 February 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LCD 61, NIP 21, ABC 17, LWP 10, ACP 4, BNP 3, other 4
Alliance of Congress Parties or ACP (including the Lesotho People's Congress or LCP [Kelebone MAOPE], the Basotholand African Congress or BAC [Khauhelo RALITAPOLE], and a faction of the Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Ntsukunyane MPHANYA]); All Basotho Convention or ABC [Thomas THABANE]; Basotho Batho Democratic Party or BBDP; Basotho Congress Party or BCP; Basotho Democratic National Party or BDNP [Thabang NYEOE]; Basotho National Party or BNP [vacant]; Basotholand African National Congress or BANC; Christian Democratic Party or CDP [Enerst RAMOKOENA]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Pakalitha MOSISILI] (the governing party); Lesotho Workers Party or LWP [Macaefa BILLY]; National Independent Party or NIP [Anthony MANYELI]
three horizontal stripes of blue (top), white, and green in the proportions of 3:4:3; the colors represent rain, peace, and prosperity respectively; centered in the white stripe is a black Basotho hat representing the indigenous people; the flag was unfurled in October 2006 to celebrate 40 years of independence
Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho relies on remittances from Basotho employed in South Africa, customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and export revenue for the majority of government revenue. However, the government has recently strengthened its tax system to reduce dependency on customs duties. Completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 permitted the sale of water to South Africa and generated royalties for Lesotho. Lesotho produces about 90% of its own electrical power needs. As the number of mineworkers has declined steadily over the past several years, a small manufacturing base has developed based on farm products that support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries, as well as an apparel-assembly sector. Despite Lesotho's market-based economy being heavily tied to its neighbor South Africa, the US is an important trade partner because of the export sector's heavy dependence on apparel exports. Exports have grown significantly because of the trade benefits contained in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Most of the labor force is engaged in subsistence agriculture, especially livestock herding, although drought has decreased agricultural activity. The extreme inequality in the distribution of income remains a major drawback. Lesotho has signed an Interim Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility with the IMF. In July 2007, Lesotho signed a Millennium Challenge Account Compact with the US worth $362.5 million. Economic growth dropped in 2009, due mainly to the effects of the global economic crisis as demand for the country's exports declined and SACU revenue fell precipitously when South Africa - the primary contributor to the SACU revenue pool - went into recession, but growth returned to 3.5% in 2010.
general assessment: rudimentary system consisting of a modest number of landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a small radiotelephone communication system; mobile-cellular telephone system is expanding
privatized in 2001, Telecom Lesotho was tasked with providing an additional 50,000 fixed-line connections within five years, a target not met; mobile-cellular service dominates the market and is expanding with a subscribership exceeding 30 per 100 persons in 2009; rural services are scant
country code - 266; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2009)
1 state-owned TV station and 2 state-owned radio stations; government controls most private broadcast media; satellite TV subscription service is available; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are obtainable (2008)
Lesotho's declared policy is maintenance of its independent sovereignty and preservation of internal security; in practice, external security is guaranteed by South Africa; restructuring of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and Ministry of Defense and Public Service over the past five years has focused on subordinating the defense apparatus to civilian control and restoring the LDF's cohesion; the restructuring has considerably improved capabilities and professionalism, but the LDF is disproportionately large for a small, poor country; the government has outlined a reduction to a planned 1,500-man strength, but these plans have met with vociferous resistance from the political opposition and from inside the LDF (2008)