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Country, southern Africa, an enclave lying within the Republic of South Africa. Area: 11,720 sq mi (30,355 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 2,067,000. Capital: Maseru. Almost all of the population are Sotho, a Bantu-speaking people. Languages: Sotho, English (both official), Zulu. Religions: Christianity (official; Roman Catholic, other Christians, Protestant); also traditional beliefs. Currency: loti. About two-thirds of the total area is mountainous; the highest point is Mount Ntlenyana (11,424 ft [3,482 m]). The Maloti Mountains in the central northwest are the source of two of South Africa's largest rivers, the Tugela and the Orange, and home to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, a large-scale development that diverts water and generates power. Mineral resources are scant. Agriculture employs nearly two-fifths of the workforce; the chief farm products are corn, sorghum, and wheat. Livestock provides exports (cattle, wool, mohair). Industries focus mainly on light manufacturing (textiles and apparel, furniture, jewelry). Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its head of state is the king, and the head of government is the prime minister. Bantu-speaking farmers began to settle the area in the 16th century, and a number of chiefdoms arose. The most powerful of them organized the Basotho in 1824 and obtained British protection in 1843 as tension between the Basotho and the South African Boers increased. It became a British territory in 1868 and was annexed to the Cape Colony in 1871. The colony's effort to disarm the Basotho resulted in revolt in 1880, and four years later it separated from the colony and became a British High Commission Territory. It became independent in 1966. A new constitution, effective in 1993, ended seven years of military rule. At the beginning of the 21st century, Lesotho suffered from a deteriorating economy and one of the world's highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
Variants of LESOTHO
Lesotho officially Kingdom of Lesotho formerly Basutoland
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Lesotho, visit Britannica.com.