The Creation of Lesotho

Lesotho is unique because it is the only African country that is completely surrounded by another, South Africa. It is also the country with the highest low point in the world—1400m above sea level! How did the country of Lesotho come to be with these unique geographical features?

In the 1820s, Moshoeshoe united various groups running away from attacks that were being carried out by the Zulus and Matabeles in Southern Africa. These groups had settled in the area that is currently in the northwestern part of present-day Lesotho. Chief Moshoeshoe decided to situate the capital of his chiefdom on a flat-topped mountain, which provided good protection against external attacks. The name of the mountain is Thaba Bosiu, which means “Mountain of the Night”, because Moshoeshoe arrived there with his people at night. The subjects of Chief Moshoeshoe were called the Basotho and the chiefdom grew to become one of the most powerful in the region.

However, when the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers, began to move inland to escape the British Administration in the Cape, Moshoeshoe’s chiefdom came under threat. The Boers fought a series of wars, which ended with the Basotho losing most of their best land to the Boers. In order to protect his chiefdom and the rest of their land, Moshoeshoe decided to seek the protection of the British Crown so that Basutoland became a protectorate of the British Empire in 1868. In 1871, Basutoland was annexed to the Cape Colony, which would have integrated it with the rest of South Africa. However, Cape Town could not govern the Basotho because the chief rose in revolt, which led to a lot of fighting in the region. Eventually, they were restored to being directly under British rule in 1884. When the British were granting independence to all their Southern African colonies in the 1960s, Basutoland regained independence becoming the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966.

By Iyeyinka Kusi-Mensah

(Image: Astrobob Areavoices)

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