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History, Independent Lesotho

King Moshoeshoe, Lesotho Highlands Water Project, military coup, armed uprising, military council

In national elections held on January 27, 1970, the first since independence, the opposition Basotho Congress Party (BCP) led by Ntsu Mokhehle seemed to have the winning edge. Prime Minister Jonathan then nullified the elections and declared a state of emergency. The constitution and parliament were suspended, and Jonathan undertook to govern the country by decree. In 1973 an interim National Assembly of nominated members absorbed the old assembly and Senate. Supporters of the BCP staged an armed uprising in 1974. When it failed, the leaders formed a Lesotho Liberation Army that during the following years engaged in frequent clashes with the paramilitary police. Jonathan accused South Africa of collusion with the rebels, and relations with that country were consequently strained.

In 1986 Jonathan was overthrown in a military coup led by Major-General Justin Lekhanya. Executive and legislative powers were nominally vested in King Moshoeshoe but were actually exercised by a military council headed by Lekhanya. After Moshoeshoe refused to approve Lekhanya’s dismissal of several members of the military council in 1990, the king was stripped of power and exiled. Moshoeshoe was officially dethroned later that year, and his son, Letsie David Mohato Bereng Seeiso, was enthroned as Letsie III.

In 1986 construction began on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which will divert water from the headwaters of several rivers in Lesotho to the Witwatersrand region of South Africa. The project, which is scheduled for completion in 2015, is intended to boost Lesotho’s economy through the creation of jobs, improvements in infrastructure, and payments from South Africa for water use. It will also reduce Lesotho’s dependence on South Africa for electricity through the construction of a hydroelectric power plant.



Article key phrases:

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