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  Introduction Back To Top

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. 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 Botswanan 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 periodically demonstrate their distrust of the results.

  Geography Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.05 cu km/yr (40%/40%/20%)
per capita: 28 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
5.2 cu km (1987)

Land boundaries:
total: 909 km
border countries: South Africa 909 km

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

temperate; cool to cold, dry winters; hot, wet summers

Map references:

Geographic coordinates:
29 30 S, 28 30 E

Natural resources:
water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m
highest point: Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m

mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains

Geography - note:
landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 m above sea level

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

Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

0 km (landlocked)

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Maryland

Irrigated land:
30 sq km (2003)

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

Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)

Natural hazards:
periodic droughts

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

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
3.13 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
28.9% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
320,000 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 40.17 years
male: 40.97 years
female: 39.34 years (2008 est.)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 84.8%
male: 74.5%
female: 94.5% (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:
-0.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,

Median age:
total: 21.2 years
male: 20.6 years
female: 21.8 years (2008 est.)

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 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
13% of GDP (2006)

Population growth rate:
0.129% (2008 est.)

Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa

Death rate:
22.33 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 78.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 83.01 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 74.03 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
29,000 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 10 years
male: 10 years
female: 10 years (2006)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 35.3% (male 377,784/female 372,840)
15-64 years: 59.8% (male 621,687/female 649,981)
65 years and over: 5% (male 42,348/female 63,540) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
24.41 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert NOLAN
embassy: 254 Kingsway, Maseru West (Consular Section)
mailing address: P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
telephone: [266] 22 312666
FAX: [266] 22 310116

National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 October (1966)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Political pressure groups and leaders:
Media Institute of Southern Africa, Lesotho chapter [Thabang MATJAMA] (pushes for media freedom)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Mabasia MOHOBANE
chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533 through 5536
FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815

International organization participation:

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 popular vote and 40 by proportional vote; members elected by popular vote for five-year terms)
elections: last held 17 February 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LCD 61, NIP 21, ABC 17, LWP 10, ACP 4, BNP 3, other 4

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

Flag description:
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

4 October 1966 (from UK)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
local long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
local short form: Lesotho
former: Basutoland

Political parties and leaders:
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 [Maj. Gen. Justin Metsing LEKHANYA]; Basotholand African National Congress or BANC; Christian Democratic Party or CDP [Enerst RAMOKOENA]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD (the governing party) [Pakalitha MOSISILI]; Lesotho Workers Party or LWP [Macaefa BILLY]; National Independent Party or NIP [Anthony MANYELI]

name: Maseru
geographic coordinates: 29 19 S, 27 29 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

2 April 1993

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: 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 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

Administrative divisions:
10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohale's Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka

Judicial branch:
High Court (chief justice appointed by the monarch acting on the advice of the Prime Minister); Court of Appeal; Magistrate Courts; customary or traditional court

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
US 71.5%, Belgium 25.6%, Canada 1.2% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
226 million kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
12.82% (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
50 million kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
$666 million (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$628 million (31 December 2008 est.)

Unemployment rate:
45% (2002)

Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$1,600 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
39.2% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$3.384 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.652 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
63.2 (1995)

Exchange rates:
maloti (LSL) per US dollar - 7.75 (2008 est.), 7.25 (2007), 6.85 (2006), 6.3593 (2005), 6.4597 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
5.9% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$439.2 million (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
838,000 (2000 est.)

Imports - partners:
China 30%, Hong Kong 29.6%, India 10%, South Korea 6.6%, Germany 6.4%, Pakistan 4.6% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
10% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 15.1%
industry: 46.7%
services: 38.2% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
1,500 bbl/day (2005)

$1.06 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)

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 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 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. In July 2007, Lesotho signed a Millennium Challenge Account Compact with the US worth $362.5 million.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products

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

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:
49% (1999)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
14.13% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$160.2 million (31 December 2007)

Electricity - production:
200 million kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2006 est.)

$1.339 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

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% (2002 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$799 million (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
1,400 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 0.9%
highest 10%: 43.4% (2002 est.)

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

Economic aid - recipient:
$68.82 million (2005)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $523 million
expenditures: $479.5 million (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
70,000 (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
53,100 (2006)


Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)

NA (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
456,000 (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
1 (2000)

Telephone system:
general assessment: rudimentary system consisting of a modest but growing number of landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a small radiotelephone communication system; mobile-cellular telephone system is expanding
domestic: privatized in 2001, Telecom Lesotho tasked with providing an additional 50,000 fixed-line connections within five years, a target not met; mobile-cellular service is expanding with a subscribership approaching 25 per 100 persons; rural services are scant
international: country code - 266; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2007)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)

Internet hosts:
83 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 3
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)

total: 7,091 km
paved: 1,404 km
unpaved: 5,687 km (2003)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 21 (2007)

28 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 525,203
females age 16-49: 522,485 (2008 est.)

Military - note:
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)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 262,101
females age 16-49: 238,350 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Lesotho Defense Force (LDF): Army (includes Air Wing) (2008)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 26,084
female: 26,006 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
2.6% of GDP (2006)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:

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