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Introduction Lesotho
Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. King MOSHOESHOE was exiled in 1990. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after 23 years of military rule. In 1998, violent protests and a military mutiny following a contentious election prompted a brief but bloody South African military intervention. Constitutional reforms have since restored political stability; peaceful parliamentary elections were held in 2002.
Geography Lesotho
Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa
Geographic coordinates:
29 30 S, 28 30 E
Map references:
total: 30,355 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 30,355 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries:
total: 909 km
border countries: South Africa 909 km
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
temperate; cool to cold, dry winters; hot, wet summers
mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m
highest point: Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m
Natural resources:
water, agricultural and grazing land, some diamonds and other minerals
Land use:
arable land: 10.71%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 89.29% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
10 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
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
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping
Geography - note:
landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 meters above sea level
People Lesotho
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 and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 37.7% (male 353,554; female 349,092)
15-64 years: 56.8% (male 516,017; female 541,694)
65 years and over: 5.5% (male 41,735; female 59,867) (2003 est.)
Median age:
total: 19.8 years
male: 19.3 years
female: 20.4 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
0.19% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
27.26 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
24.58 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.74 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 86.21 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 80.99 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 91.28 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 36.94 years
male: 36.76 years
female: 37.13 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.52 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
31% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
360,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
25,000 (2001 est.)
noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho
Ethnic groups:
Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,
Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 84.8%
male: 74.5%
female: 94.5% (2003 est.)
Government Lesotho
Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
former: Basutoland
Government type:
parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Administrative divisions:
10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka
4 October 1966 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 October (1966)
2 April 1993
Legal system:
based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: King LETSIE III (since 7 February 1996); note - King LETSIE III formerly occupied the throne from November 1990 to February 1995, while his father was in exile
head of government: Prime Minister Pakalitha MOSISILI (since 23 May 1998)
cabinet: Cabinet
elections: none; according to the constitution, the leader of the majority party in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister; the monarch is hereditary, but, under the terms of the constitution, which 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 determine who is next in the line of succession, who shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is not of mature age, and may even depose the monarch
Legislative branch:
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 direct popular vote and 40 by proportional vote; members elected by popular vote for five-year terms); note - number of seats in the Assembly rose from 80 to 120 in the May 2002 election
elections: last held 25 May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - LCD 54%, BNP 21%, LPC 7%, other 18%; seats by party - LCD 76, BNP 21, LPC 5, other 18
Judicial branch:
High Court (chief justice appointed by the monarch); Court of Appeal; Magistrate's Court; customary or traditional court
Political parties and leaders:
Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Tseliso MAKHAKHE]; Basotho National Party or BNP [Maj. Gen. Justine Metsing LEKHANYA]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Phebe MOTEBANO, chairwoman; Pakalitha MOSISILI, leader] - the governing party; Lesotho People's Congress or LPC [Kelebone MAOPE]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Charles MOFELI]; Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP and Setlamo Alliance [Vincent MALEBO]; Progressive National Party or PNP [Chief Peete Nkoebe PEETE]; Sefate Democratic Party or SDP [Bofihla NKUEBE]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Molelekeng E. RAPOLAKI
FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815
telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533 through 5536
chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert G. LOFTIS
embassy: 254 Kingsway, Maseru West (Consular Section)
mailing address: P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
telephone: [266] 312666
FAX: [266] 310116
Flag description:
divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white, bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner
Economy Lesotho
Economy - overview:
Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho relies on remittances from miners employed in South Africa and customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union for the majority of government revenue, but the government has strengthened its tax system to reduce dependency on customs duties. Completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 now permits the sale of water to South Africa, also generating royalties for Lesotho. 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 and a rapidly growing apparel-assembly sector. The economy is still primarily based on subsistence agriculture, especially livestock, 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.
purchasing power parity - $5.106 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $2,700 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 20%
industry: 46%
services: 34% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
49% (1999)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 0.9%
highest 10%: 43.4%
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
56 (1986-87)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
10% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
86% of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa
Unemployment rate:
45% (2002)
revenues: $76 million
expenditures: $80 million, including capital expenditures of $15 million (FY 99/00 est.)
food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts; construction; tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
15.5% (1999)
Electricity - production:
0 kWh NA kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
40 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
40 million kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
1,500 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - exports:
NA (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA (2001)
Agriculture - products:
corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock
$422 million f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
manufactures 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool and mohair, food and live animals (2000)
Exports - partners:
US 97.5%, Canada 0.9%, France 0.6% (2002)
$738 million f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products (2000)
Imports - partners:
Hong Kong 51.9%, China 25%, France 3.9% (2002)
Debt - external:
$735 million (2002)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA $4.4 million
Economic aid - recipient:
$41.5 million (2000)
loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
maloti per US dollar - 10.54 (2002), 8.61 (2001), 6.94 (2000), 6.11 (1999), 5.53 (1998)
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications Lesotho
Telephones - main lines in use:
22,200 (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
21,600 (2000)
Telephone system:
general assessment: rudimentary system
domestic: consists of a few landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a minor radiotelephone communication system; a cellular mobile telephone system is growing
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)
NA (2002)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (2000)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
5,000 (2002)
Transportation Lesotho
total: 2.6 km; note - owned by, operated by, and included in the statistics of South Africa
narrow gauge: 2.6 km 1.067-m gauge (1995)
total: 5,940 km
paved: 1,087 km
unpaved: 4,853 km (1999)
Ports and harbors:
28 (2002)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 24
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 20 (2002)
Military Lesotho
Military branches:
Lesotho Defense Force (LDF; including Army and Air Wing), Royal Lesotho Mounted Police
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 459,723 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 250,560 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$34 million (1999)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
Military - note:
the Lesotho Government in 1999 began an open debate on the future structure, size, and role of the armed forces, especially considering the Lesotho Defense Force's (LDF) history of intervening in political affairs
Transnational Issues Lesotho
Disputes - international: