KING MOSHOESHOE I
The history of Lesotho is dominated by the first king and founder of the Basotho, Moshoeshoe I. Moshoeshoe became a chief in 1820 and began drawing other chiefs and their tribes to his chieftaincy, including many refugees fleeing other expansionary tribes. Moshoeshoe established a secure fortress at the mountain called Thaba Bosiu. In the 1830s missionaries began arriving in the area, welcomed by Moshoeshoe.
The 1840s saw white farmers beginning to encroach on the Basotho's land, which originally included most of what is now South Africa's Free State. After years of conflict with the ambitious Orange Free State, Lesotho signed a peace treaty with the Boers in 1869, but by this time, the Basotho had lost over half of their arable land. In 1868 Lesotho came under the British crown.
In the first half of the 19th century Basotho structures of governance were gradually built up, though still under the control of Britain. In the 1960s, the National Council began to negotiate independence with the British, and in 1966, Lesotho's independence was declared, under the leadership of the Basotho National Party (BNP).
Post-independence politics in Lesotho were stormy. After losing the election in 1970, Leabua Jonathan of the BNP annulled the election, declared a state of emergency and proceeded to rule as a "strong man" for the next 16 years.
1986 and 1991 saw military coups, first under Major General Metsing Lekhanya, then Major General Phitŝoane Ramaema. In 1993, power was ceded to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in a democratic election. But party fighting continued as the defeated BNP alleged electoral fraud.
The 1998 elections were won by a new party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), with Ntsu Mokhehle, formerly of the BCP, at its head. Now, both the BCP and BNP refused to accept the results, crying fraud. Initially peaceful protests soon became violent, and a mutiny by a fraction of army added to the growing anarchy. In September 1998, Lesotho was invaded by soldiers from South Africa and Botswana, under the flag of a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) peacekeeping force. Riots broke out that destroyed much of Maseru, Mafeteng, and Mohale's Hoek.
In 2002, the electoral system was reformed to include a number of proportional representation seats: an attempt to foster a more equitable distribution of seats to parties and to address the bitter fighting surrounded the elections of 1998. To put the new system into effect, an election was forced in 2002. This the LCD won soundly, with the poll widely regarded as free and fair.