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Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Lesotho

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Lesotho, 2004, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kingdom of Lesotho

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 1.8 million (0.9 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 2,000 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 24 September 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182; ACRWC

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces, although there was a risk of underage recruitment owing to low levels of birth registration.


Struggling with the combined effects of drought, HIV/AIDS and falling agricultural production, hundreds of thousands of people required food aid in 2004 for a third consecutive year. The prevalence of HIV infection was estimated at 31 per cent, and was recognized by UNICEF and the government to have led to increased child prostitution.1 The country had high levels of child labour and a growing number of street children.2

A study by the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa in 2004 found that the restructuring of the armed forces, security services and police following army disturbances in 1994 and 1998 had reduced the risk of election unrest, although problems of political violence remained.3


National recruitment legislation and practice

Under the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996, the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces is 18 (Section 18). Recruits may join up between the ages of 18 and 24.4 Lesotho confirmed its support for the "straight-18" position when it ratified the Optional Protocol.5 The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern in 2001 "at low levels of birth registration and, in particular, that some registration procedures are inaccessible, cumbersome and expensive".6 Lack of an effective registration system heightened the risk of recruiting under-18s.

1 UNICEF, At a glance: Lesotho,; IRIN, "Lesotho: Food security situation 'alarming'", 31 March 2004,; US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, February 2004,

2 Initial report of Lesotho to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.20, 20 July 1998,

3 Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, The road to democratic consolidation in Lesotho, reforms and challenges, 2004, cited in IRIN, "Lesotho: Focus on challenges to multi-party democracy", 15 January 2004.

4 Initial report of Lesotho to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

5 Declaration,

6 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Lesotho, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.147, 21 February 2001.

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