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You are in:  Nations > Africa > Lesotho
Lesotho*Lesotho flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Maseru
Area: 30,355 sq km; 11,720 sq miles
Population: 2,166,520 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 26 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 74 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Wool, mohair, wheat, cattle, peas, beans, maize, hides, skins, baskets, clothing, footwear, road vehicles

Industry: Food, beverages, textiles, handicrafts, tourism, construction

Agriculture: Principal crops: maize, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley

Currency: 1 loti (L) consisting of 100 lisente

Natural resources: Water, agricultural and grazing land, some diamonds


The people

Ethnic: Basotho 79 per cent, Nguni 20 per cent, San, Griqua and other groups 1 per cent

Language: Sesotho (southern Sotho, official), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa. Both English and Sesotho are official languages. Sesotho (also called "southern Sotho") is a Bantu language and is spoken by nearly all the inhabitants of Lesotho. Most people are able to speak English, which is used in business and as the language of instruction at school after the fifth year. Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken by those who work in South Africa's mines or have contact with South Africa's Transkei region.

Religion: Almost Christian 90 per cent, Indigenous beliefs 9 per cent, Muslim 1 per cent 80 per cent of the population of Lesotho is Christian. The three largest churches are the Roman Catholic Church, the Lesotho Evangelical Church and the Anglican Church of Lesotho. There is a small Muslim community in the North. About 20 per cent of the people follow indigenous religious beliefs and some Christians living outside Maseru practise native traditions or rites alongside Christianity.


The history

Independence: 4 October 1966 (from the United Kingdom), Internal self-rule was introduced in 1956, when a new constitution allowed for the first elected legislature. In October 1966 Basutoland became an independent member of the Commonwealth as the Kingdom of Lesotho, with Moshoeshoe II as king and head of state and Chief Leabua Jonathan as Prime Minister. The current monarch is Letsie III.

Government: The King is Lesotho's head of state but has only ceremonial duties. The prime minister is the executive head of Government and is assisted by a cabinet. There is a bicameral legislature. The 65 members of the Assembly, the lower house, are chosen by popular election. The 33-member Senate includes the 22 principal chiefs and 11 chiefs who are nominated by the ruling party. The voting age is 21.

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