Country Profiles:
Lesotho

Lesotho is an enclaved country in southern Africa, completely surrounded by South Africa. This mountain kingdom was the domain of Khoisan-speaking hunter-gatherers. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. In the 19th century the Sotho, led by Moshoeshoe I, took control of the region. It remained independent until it became a British protectorate, one of three British High Commission Territories (the others being Bechuanaland [now Botswana] and Swaziland). Previously known as Basutoland, Lesotho declared independence from the United Kingdom on October 4th 1966.

UNESCO Heritage sites in Lesotho include:

1. Maloti-Drakensberg Park

The park features incisive dramatic cutbacks, golden sandstone ramparts, and the largest concentration of cave art in Sub-Saharan Africa.he park is situated in the Drakensberg Mountains which form the highest areas in the sub-region, and supports unique montane and sub-alpine ecosystems. These ecosystems hold a globally significant plant and animal biodiversity, with unique habitats and high levels of endemism. The park is also home to the greatest gallery of rock art in the world with hundreds of sites and many thousands of images painted by the Bushmen (San) people.

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy, with the king as the head of state.

The prime minister serves as the head of government and head of the armed forces. The bicameral parliament consists of an elected National Assembly and an appointed Senate.Conflict arose in February 1990 within the Military Council, headed by Maj. Gen. Lekhanya, but King Moshoeshoe II refused to approve several dismissals from the council. He was dethroned and went into exile, and his eldest son, Mohato, was sworn in as King Letsie III. Maj. Gen. Lekhanya was forced to resign in April 1991 after a successful coup led by Col. Elias Tutsoane Ramaema, who lifted the ban on political activity and promised a new constitution. The political and economic crises continued, however, and demonstrations broke out in Maseru in May. General elections first promised in 1992 were finally held in March 1993. The BCP returned to power under the leadership of Ntsu Mokhehle as prime minister. He appointed a commission in July 1994 to examine the circumstances surrounding the dethronement of King Moshoeshoe II in 1990. King Letsie’s attempt to dismiss the BCP government in August 1994 proved unsuccessful, and Moshoeshoe was reinstated as king in January 1995. Less than a year later, Moshoeshoe died, and Letsie reassumed the throne; a formal coronation ceremony was held in October 1997.

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy, with the king as the head of state. The prime minister serves as the head of government and head of the armed forces. The bicameral parliament consists of an elected National Assembly and an appointed Senate.The king himself does not hold executive authority and is instead a national symbol; executive power rests with the cabinet, which is led by the prime minister. Political parties were dissolved in 1986 but reauthorized in 1991. Conflict arose in February 1990 within the Military Council, headed by Maj. Gen. Lekhanya, but King Moshoeshoe II refused to approve several dismissals from the council. He was dethroned and went into exile, and his eldest son, Mohato, was sworn in as King Letsie III. Maj. Gen. Lekhanya was forced to resign in April 1991 after a successful coup led by Col. Elias Tutsoane Ramaema, who lifted the ban on political activity and promised a new constitution. General elections first promised in 1992 were finally held in March 1993. The BCP returned to power under the leadership of Ntsu Mokhehle as prime minister. He appointed a commission in July 1994 to examine the circumstances surrounding the dethronement of King Moshoeshoe II in 1990. King Letsie’s attempt to dismiss the BCP government in August 1994 proved unsuccessful, and Moshoeshoe was reinstated as king in January 1995. Less than a year later, Moshoeshoe died, and Letsie reassumed the throne, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Lesotho has few mineral resources, although produce diamonds are heavily produced in the highlands. Lesotho is blessed with colorful type II diamonds, which are nitrogen free and highly sought. The country is home to the Gem Diamonds-owned Letseng mine, the highest dollar-per-carat kimberlite diamond mine in the world. Some of the largest diamonds ever discovered were found here, with some stones estimated at 600 carats uncut. Diamonds contribute 10 percent of the country’s GDP. The country is rich with natural wealth such as mountains and mineral springs. The country’s most treasured resources is the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) that opened in 2004. This is a large-scale water-transfer plan between Lesotho and South Africa. The LHWP consists of dams, reservoirs, transfer tunnels, and a hydroelectric power station. The LHWP augments the transfer of the headwaters of the Orange River deep in the valleys of the Lesotho highlands to the river’s principal tributary, the Vaal River in South Africa, thus supplying South Africa with much-needed water while generating hydroelectric power for use in Lesotho.

The overwhelming majority of the country’s population are the Sotho (also known as Basotho). They were originally united by a common loyalty to the royal house of Moshoeshoe I, who founded the Sotho nation in the 19th century. There is also a Zulu minority, a small population of Asian or mixed ancestry, and a European community.

Cuisine in Lesotho features both traditional Lesotho, British and South African culinary practices. Dishes such as Pap-pap or Papa, Ugali and Cabbage, Curried Meat, Mealie-Meal (cornmeal Caes).

 Music in Lesotho has many styles and sub-genres of Basotho music, which differ from one territory to the next. These styles have created cohesion or brought about rivalry throughout the years. While South African music is generally enjoyed in Lesotho, there is a tremendous following for famo (contemporary Sesotho music, which features the accordion and oil can drum) such as that by Mosotho Chakela.

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