Flag of Lesotho

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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 reinstated in 1995. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after 7 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 Botswanan military forces under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community. Constitutional reforms have since restored political stability; peaceful parliamentary elections were held in 2002.


Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

Geographic coordinates:

29 30 S, 28 30 E


total: 30,355 sq km
land: 30,355 sq km
water: 0 sq km

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, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone

Land use:

arable land: 10.87%
permanent crops: 0.13%
other: 89% (2005)

Irrigated land:

30 sq km (2003)

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

Geography - note:

landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 meters above sea level


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 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 36.8% (male 374,102/female 369,527)
15-64 years: 58.3% (male 572,957/female 606,846)
65 years and over: 4.9% (male 39,461/female 59,438) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 20.3 years
male: 19.7 years
female: 21 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

-0.46% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

24.75 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

28.71 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.68 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 87.24 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 92.04 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 82.28 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 34.4 years
male: 35.55 years
female: 33.21 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.28 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

28.9% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

320,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

29,000 (2003 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.)

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, Mohale's 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; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal

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 by 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 acting on the advice of the Prime Minister); Court of Appeal; Magistrate's Court; customary or traditional court

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. However, the government has recently 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, as well as a rapidly expanding apparel-assembly sector. The latter has grown significantly, mainly due to Lesotho qualifying for the trade benefits contained in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. 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.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$6.064 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$1.355 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

0.8% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$3,000 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 15.4%
industry: 44.2%
services: 40.4% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

838,000 (2000)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 86% of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa
industry and services: 14%

Unemployment rate:

45% (2002)

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:

63.2 (1995)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

4.7% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

29.5% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $738.5 million
expenditures: $792.1 million; including capital expenditures of $15 million (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock


food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts, construction, tourism

Industrial production growth rate:

15.5% (1999)

Electricity - production:

350 million kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

363.5 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

38 million kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2003)

Oil - consumption:

1,400 bbl/day (2003)

Current account balance:

-$152.1 million (2005 est.)


$602.8 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

manufactures 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool and mohair, food and live animals (2000)

Exports - partners:

US 97%, Canada 2.1%, UK 0.3% (2004)


$1.166 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products (2000)

Imports - partners:

Honk Kong 43%, China 23.4%, India 5.5%, South Korea 5.1%, Germany 4.4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$411 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$735 million (2002)

Economic aid - donor:

ODA, $4.4 million

Economic aid - recipient:

$41.5 million (2000)

Currency (code):

loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)

Fiscal year:

1 April - 31 March

Telephones - main lines in use:

37,200 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

159,000 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: rudimentary system
domestic: consists of a modest but growing number of landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a minor radiotelephone communication system; a cellular mobile telephone system is growing
international: country code - 266; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

1 (2000)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

154 (2005)

Internet users:

43,000 (2005)


28 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 3
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 21 (2005)


total: 5,940 km
paved: 1,087 km
unpaved: 4,853 km (1999)

Military branches:

Lesotho Defense Force (LDF): Army and Air Wing

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