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Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Lesotho

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 10 July 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Lesotho, 10 July 2008, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
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.

Period of democratic transition: 1993
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

In 1986, Major General Justin Lekhanya ousted the prime minister, dissolved Parliament, banned all political activity, and conferred both legislative and executive power to a new military council.

By 1990, Lekhanya announced his intention to hand back powers to an elected Parliament and in July convened the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) of about 100 members – traditional chiefs, church leaders, and representatives of development councils – to rewrite the constitution and provide for a multiparty system. Though Lekhanya consulted civil society, he initiated many of the steps toward democracy, and popular protests and civic movements were noticeably absent. In April 1991, another military coup led by Tutsoane Ramaema overthrew Lekhanya's regime but continued on the path toward civilian governance by lifting the five-year-old ban on political parties. The work of the NCA continued, and in 1992 it hosted weeks of nationwide public meetings, in which voters were consulted on the constitutional text. While the military regime tried to add a constitutional provision establishing a military defense commission with the power to dismiss elected officials, domestic and international criticism led to the dropping of the controversial clause. After several postponements, elections were finally held in March 1993, just two weeks after the constitution was completed.

Although the 1993 election did mark a democratic transition, it was unable to ensure political stability. After less than a year, Lesotho witnessed a period of violent military infighting, assassinations, and a new suspension of constitutional rule. By 1995, the political situation had restabilized, and most subsequent elections were considered to be free and fair, though occasionally marked by violence.

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