Kingdom entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Its capital is Maseru. The Sotho people were brought together under Moshesh c. 1820 following the disturbances caused by the rise of the Zulu. Moshesh preserved the independence of the Sotho against Zulus, Boers, and British, although the country came under British protection in 1868. Part of Cape Colony from 1871 to 1884, when it became a British colony, Lesotho was granted independence on October 4, 1966. The kingdom suffered political instability in the early 1970s. In December 1982 South African troops invaded the country and entered the capital in retaliation for Lesotho’s support of South African liberation forces.
In 1986, Major General Justinus Lekhanya led a coup that installed King Moshoeshoe II as head of state. After prolonged disputes with Lekhanya over power, the king went into exile. In 1990, Moshoeshoe II’s son, Letsie III, became king but was reduced to a purely ceremonial role. In 1992, Lekhanya was overthrown, and replaced by a military junta. In 1993, free elections resulted in Ntsu Mokhehle becoming prime minister. In 1994, the king was restored to power, reinstalled Mokhehle, after there was pressure from other southern African nations to reinstate him. In 1995, Letsie abdicated in favor of his father, but soon returned to the throne after Moshoeshoe was killed in an auto accident. In 1997, Mokhehle switched political parties but remained in power until he died in 1998. After violence broke out after the 1998 elections, South Africa and Botswana sent troops into the country to restore order. In 2004, after a long drought, Lesotho appealed for international food aid to avert starvation in the country.