Lesotho is a landlocked country, surrounded by South Africa. It is a scenic land encircled by formidable mountains, with narrow valleys.
This mountain kingdom has been home to Khoisan hunter-gathers since the Neolithic. In the 18th century, tribal conflicts were overshadowed by those with Dutch, and then English, colonists.
Lesotho became a British protectorate in 1868. It gained independence in 1966.
The first elections led to civil war and single-party rule. In 1986, a coup transitioned the government to a monarchy with military backing.
The country became a constitutional monarchy in 2002, but political strife continued. An abortive military coup on 30 August 2014 had the prime minister briefly flee to South Africa.
The country is culturally conservative, but its people welcomed modernization programs that begin in the 1990s, at the cost of extensive environmental damage.
Poverty remains deep and widespread. The UN describes 40% of the population as “ultra-poor.” Lesotho has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
Lesotho is typical of many African nations, where the legacy of colonization has been false hopes, political instability, and environmental destruction via the injection of modern capitalism.