Moshoeshoe Day in Lesotho

March 11 is Moshoeshoe Day in Lesotho, honoring Moshoeshoe I (c. 1786 – 11 March 1870) the first son of a minor chief of the Crocodile Clan in what is now Lesotho. At the age of 34, he became a chief in his own right and he and his followers settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain.

His settlement and reign coincided with the growth in power of the well-known Zulu King Shaka who raided many smaller chiefdoms and incorporated them into his steadily growing Zulu empire. The attacks forced Moshoeshoe to move his settlement to the Qiloane plateau. The name was later changed to Thaba Bosiu or “mountain at night” because it was believed to grow during the night and shrink during day. It proved to be an impassable stronghold against enemies.

In the late 1830s, Boer trekkers showed up on the western borders of Basutoland and tried to stake claims. The next 60 years were a period of wars between the Sothos, the British and the Boers during which, amazingly, the Sotho army defeated both English and the Dutch.

The last war in 1867 ended only when the British and Moshoeshoe I appealed to Queen Victoria who agreed to make Basutoland a British protectorate in 1868. In 1869, the British signed a treaty at Aliwal with the Boers. It defined the boundaries of Basutoland, and later Lesotho. Those boundaries have not changed to this day.

By the latter part of the 19th century, Moshoeshoe established the nation of the Basotho in Basutoland. He was popularly known as Morena e Moholo/morena oa Basotho (Great King/King of the Basotho). He was particularly well-loved because he provided land and protection to various people and thus strengthened the growing Basotho nation.

Although he had ceded much territory, Moshoeshoe never suffered a major military defeat and retained most of his kingdom and all of his culture. His death in 1870 marked the end of the traditional era and the beginning of the modern colonial period. Moshoeshoe Day is a national holiday in Lesotho celebrated every year on 11 March to commemorate the day of Moshoeshoe’s death.

Moshoeshoe I International Airport is named in his honour.

This highly complimentary description was summarized from Wikipedia. I welcome other points of view if any of you readers have strong feelings about Moshoeshoe I.

Moshoeshoe I, image in the public domain.
Moshoeshoe I, image in the public domain.

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