History of LesothoLesotho



Basutoland (now Lesotho--pronounced le-SOO-too) was sparsely populated by San bushmen (Qhuaique) until the end of the 16th century. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, refugees from surrounding areas gradually formed the Basotho ethnic group. In 1818, Moshoeshoe I (pronounced mo-SHWAY-shway) consolidated various Basotho groupings and became their King. During Moshoeshoe's reign (1823-70), a series of wars with South Africa (1856-68) resulted in the loss of extensive Basotho land, now known as the "Lost Territory." In order to protect his people, Moshoeshoe appealed to Queen Victoria for assistance, and in 1868 the land that is present-day Lesotho was placed under British protection.

After a 1955 request by the Basutoland Council to legislate its internal affairs, in 1959, a new constitution gave Basutoland its first elected legislature. This was followed in April 1965 with general legislative elections with universal adult suffrage in which the Basotho National Party (BNP) won 31, and the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) won 25 of the 65 seats contested. On October 4, 1966, the Kingdom of Lesotho attained full independence, governed by a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament consisting of a Senate and an elected National Assembly. Early results of the first post-independence elections in January 1970 indicated that the BNP might lose control.

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