Moshoeshoe I, the founder and king of the Basotho Kingdom (current-day LESOTHO), was known for his military superiority and diplomatic capabilities. He was a key figure in defending Lesotho against European colonization and helping the country’s independence.
Moshoeshoe was the son of a Koena chief, and his original name was Lepogo. Moshoeshoe earned a reputation as a leader as a young adult by conducting daring cattle raids. Despite this, he was impatient and irritable, and often killed followers for minor infractions. A local wise man told him that being just and humane would make him a more successful leader. This piece of advice convinced Moshoeshoe that peace, not violence, would earn him more loyal supporters. By the early 1830s, he had successfully united many minor clans to form the Basotho kingdom.
Moshoeshoe observed the complicated relations between African and European populations throughout this time and learnt to deal with them positively. Moshoeshoe acquired the respect of other African leaders and colonial officials by demonstrating that he was a powerful and knowledgeable leader, which would prove to be crucial in his efforts to keep the Basotho people independent.
Attempts by European invaders to conquer the Basotho people and steal their land posed the greatest threat to Moshoeshoe during his reign. Initially, Britain supported the settlers. Lesotho was invaded by a British force in 1852, but Moshoeshoe defeated them. Over the next 15 years, the settlers attempted but failed to defeat Moshoeshoe and his followers.
Moshoeshoe gained the respect of colonial officials and won the support of the British administration through his diplomatic skills. He helped protect the Basotho from European rule by making an alliance with Britain and winning its protection. As a result, the people of Lesotho regard Moshoeshoe as the country’s father.