Talk to Al Jazeera

King Letsie III of Lesotho: Ready for more power

The king of Lesotho says he is willing to play a larger political role, if asked to do so.

The Kingdom of Lesotho is often described as one of the poorest countries in the world. 

In addition to continued political instability, the nation is facing many serious social problems.

Poverty and unemployment rates are high, violent crimes are common, and there are many reports of rape and abuse against women. With 25 percent of the people identified as HIV-positive, Aids/HIV rates are among of the highest in the world.

But there are also sources of stability and wealth: Most people in Lesotho own their own land and their own homes. They speak the same language and share the same religion.

It is a democratic country where people have a chance to express their views, and they have a king who is willing and anxious to help – if only they let him.

Unlike the other African monarchies in Morocco and Swaziland where the king plays an important role in politics, Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a king whose powers are largely ceremonial.

“I have no constitutional powers to intervene in public affairs or settle disputes that may arise between different political factions or between sections of the population and their political leaders. So it does cause, sometimes, a bit of a problem or a frustration on my part,” King Letsie III of Lesotho tells Al Jazeera.

But that may be about to change. In a conversation with Al Jazeera, the king suggests he is ready to play a larger role in politics – but under certain conditions.

“I’m committed to the principles of a constitutional monarchy. However, if there is a view among the population that I could have a role in one way or another – there is a process of reform that is about to begin, reforming the Constitution … if the people say this is what we want, then I am ready for it,” the king tells Al Jazeera.

“But we must be careful that … we don’t surrender the principles of the constitutional monarchy, and we do not, at the same time, try to usurp the powers of the elected government. So it will have to be a very balanced exercise…. but in the end, it depends on the views of the people and the leadership.”

So what is next for the landlocked Kingdom of Lesotho and its king?

King Letsie III talks to Al Jazeera about political instability and reforms, the HIV epidemic, the controversy surrounding Katze dam, and his special relationship with Robert Mugabe.