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Lesotho, officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighbouring country, South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population slightly over two million. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day.

The earliest known inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by Wasja-speaking[clarification needed] tribes during Bantu migrations. The Sotho-Tswana people colonized the general region of South Africa between the third and 11th centuries.

The present Lesotho, then called Basutoland, emerged as a single polity under king Moshoeshoe I in 1822. Moshoeshoe, a son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Bakoteli lineage, formed his own clan and became a chief around 1804. Between 1821 and 1823, he and his followers settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain, joining with former adversaries in resistance against the Lifaqane associated with the reign of Shaka Zulu from 1818 to 1828.

Subsequent evolution of the state hinged on conflicts between British and Dutch colonists leaving the Cape Colony following its seizure from the French-allied Dutch by the British in 1795, and subsequently associated with the Orange River Sovereignty and subsequent Orange Free State. Missionaries invited by Moshoeshoe I, Thomas Arbousset (fr), Eugène Casalis (fr) and Constant Gosselin (fr) from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, placed at Morija, developed orthography and printed works in the Sotho language between 1837 and 1855. Casalis, acting as translator and providing advice on foreign affairs, helped to set up diplomatic channels and acquire guns for use against the encroaching Europeans and the Griqua people.