Lesotho Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Lesotho is a country located in Southern Africa. With the capital city of Maseru, Lesotho has a population of 2,142,260 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. The first years after Lestoho’s independence in 1966 were marked by political contradictions, coups and periods of military rule. From 1965, the policy was dominated by Leabua Jonathan, leader of the party that was the biggest in independence – the Basutoland National Party (GDP). In 1986 he was deposed in a military coup. Democracy was reintroduced in 1993.

In the 1970 parliamentary elections, the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) won, but the election was annulled by Leabua Jonathan, who introduced a state of emergency and allowed the arrest of BCP leader Ntsu Mokhele. In 1974, the BCP tried to overthrow Jonathan in a coup but failed and the party leadership was forced into exile.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Lesotho. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Leabua Jonathan then ruled Lesotho more or less single-handedly for twelve years. He had come to power thanks to support from South Africa, but became increasingly critical of the apartheid system there and gave the South African liberation movement ANC a sanctuary in Lesotho. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Lesotho.

South Africa closed the border with Lesotho and in 1986 Jonathan was deposed in a military coup. A military junta led by General Justin Lekhanya took over the government and banned political parties. Formally, the power of King Moshoeshoe II lay, but he must obey the junta. When the King began to demand real influence in 1990, he was deposed by the military, who instead proclaimed Moshoeshoe’s son as King by the name of Letsie III.

Free choices

In 1991, General Lekhanya himself was deposed in a palace coup by other junta members. Political parties were allowed to work again and a new constitution was drafted. The following year, Moshoeshoe returned from his exile in Britain. In 1993, free elections were held for the first time since 1970 and this time the victorious BCP formed government with Mokhele as prime minister.

Soon, however, dissatisfaction within the military arose, and disputes erupted between mythists and governmental allies. In 1994, Mokhele appointed a commission to investigate the deposition of King Moshoeshoe. King Letsie responded by dismissing Mokhele and taking power himself. After pressure from abroad, the king reinstated the government. The following year, Letsie abdicated in favor of his father, but in 1996 Moshoeshoe passed away and Letsie became king again. He then promised not to interfere in politics.

After a power struggle within the BCP ruling party, Mokhele resigned and formed the rival Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in 1997 but retained the post of Prime Minister. In 1998, Mokhele resigned as the leader of LCD and was succeeded by Pakalitha Mosisili.

In the parliamentary elections that year, LCD won almost all the seats and Mosisili formed government. Several candidates who have not been elected protested and claimed electoral fraud. The protests became increasingly violent and an investigation was set up, led by a South African judge. Investigators found that irregularities had occurred in the election but that they were insufficient to influence the outcome.

Despite this, the protests continued in which young officers participated. Prime Minister Mosisili asked South Africa for help to prevent a military coup. When South African allies moved into the country, they faced fierce resistance and at least 68 people were killed. An authority with representatives of several parties was appointed to review the electoral laws and prepare for the next parliamentary elections.

The May 2002 elections were held under peaceful conditions and considered by outside observers to have been conducted correctly. The ruling party LCD got its own majority and Mosisili again became prime minister.


In 2003, Lesotho was threatened by famine since prolonged drought led to malnutrition. In early 2004, emergency permits were introduced to facilitate aid work. Then more than a quarter of the population was in need of food aid from outside.

At the same time, a power struggle was going on within the government. Minister of the Interior Thomas Thabane campaigned against the widespread corruption, which led Mosisili in 2004 to move him to the less important post of Minister of Communications. At the 2006 LCD Party Congress, Thabane was further humiliated when he was not elected to the party leadership. Thabane then left the LCD and formed a new party, the Allbasothian Convention (ABC). When 17 other LCD parliamentarians joined the ABC, the position of the ruling party in parliament weakened.

In this situation, Mosisili decided to advance the upcoming parliamentary elections from May to February 2007. Thabane made generous promises during the election campaign and ABC became LCD’s main challenger. But when the voting was completed, it was clear that LCD would retain government power with the help of the party’s Allied National Independent Party (NIP). ABC became the largest opposition party.

After the election, the opposition accused the winning parties of electoral fraud and announced a three-day general strike. In June 2007, nighttime curfews were introduced in the capital Maseru after several ministers were subjected to assaults.

The situation continued to be tense and in April 2009, Mosisili was subjected to a murder attempt when armed men attacked his home. However, the attack was fought back and Mosisili escaped unharmed.

The opposition’s refusal to accept the election results led to political turmoil, which only gradually diminished. At the initiative of the regional cooperation organization SADC, a negotiating group was appointed whose task was to ensure that the next election was peaceful. A dialogue was held between the country’s electoral commission, the government and the various political parties which resulted in a number of changes to the electoral laws. Among other things, it became possible for parties to appeal to the Supreme Court to appeal the distribution of mandates. The Election Commission was also given extended powers.

After two years of internal conflict within LCD, Mosisili broke up with the party in February 2012 and formed the Democratic Congress (DC). 45 MEPs joined DC, which thus gained a majority in parliament and could form a new government.

In the May 2012 elections, DC became the largest party but failed to get its own majority in parliament. The opposition could thus take over power. ABC and LCD joined forces to form a coalition with two smaller parties. Thomas Thabane became new head of government.

Thabane goes into exile

In the summer of 2014, disagreement within the government led to the government crisis and the coup dire. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was accused by the other parties in the government coalition of not listening to other parties. When LCD threatened to overthrow the government by initiating a vote of no confidence, Thabane dissolved the parliament.

After mediation by the SADC, the parties closed the battle ax but in August, unrest erupted in the capital Maseru since Thabane deposed the country’s defense chief Tlali Kamoli. The change of chief of defense led the military to take control of police stations in the capital and initiated a siege of the government office. Kamoli’s successor Maaparankoe Mahao was subjected to a murder attempt and went underground. Thabane claimed that Kamoli was about to conduct a coup attempt and fled to South Africa.

The background to the unrest seemed to be a conflict between Thabane and Metzing. The army was considered loyal to Metsing, while the police were considered to be on Thabane’s side.

South Africa became a mediator and Thabane returned to Lesotho under South African protection. The continued disagreement within the coalition was resolved by the parties agreeing to announce new elections until February 2015. Kamoli and the country’s police chief agreed to resign and leave the country during the election campaign, but the security situation remained unstable.

The choice was very even between Thabanes ABC and Mosisilis DC. The final result gave DC only one mandate overweight. Mosisili chose to form government with LCD and a number of small parties.

Lesotho Modern History