When he was involved in an accident that took his life on this day in 1996, King Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho had just been, a year before, re-installed as the leader of the post-independent country after he had been dethroned in 1990.
Born Constantine Bereng Seeiso on May 2, 1938, Moshoeshoe II was the descendant of the founder of the nation of Lesotho, Moshoeshoe, from whom he got his royal name.
He became the paramount chief of Lesotho, taking over Seeiso. However, since he was still young, Seeiso’s first wife and his stepmother, Mantšebo, became his regent until he took over in 1960.
Upon the country’s independence from Britain in 1966, he was crowned the king of Lesotho. Almost immediately, his reign experienced a series of problems.
In 1970, the country’s prime minister, Leabua Jonathan suspended Moshoeshoe II as king in a bid to re-establish control over the country after the former’s party lost out in the election.
Moshoeshoe II was forced into exile in the Netherlands until eight months later when Jonathan allowed him back to the country and back to the throne.
This would not be the first time for the former king to be exiled. In 1986, Moshoeshoe II gained power following the overthrow of Jonathan, but only to be deposed in a military coup four years later and the throne taken over by his son and current king, Letsie III.
Moshoeshoe II came back to Lesotho from England in 1992 and reclaimed his throne in 1995.
“Personally, I still regard myself as the only legitimate king of Lesotho and I have got reason to believe that a large population of Lesotho regard me as the king of the nation,” he was recorded saying.
He came back at a time when the country was in deep discussions over the essence and role of the monarchy, creating divisions between the pre- and anti-monarchy factions and between one group that wanted him as king and the other that wanted Lestie III to continue ruling, leading the country into a constitutional crisis.
He was reinstated in a deal brokered by countries including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe in September 1994. On January 26, 1995, he took over the throne after his son abdicated.
He ruled only for a year. He died on January 15, 1996, in a tragic road accident as he was returning to Maseru.
He left behind his two sons, Letsie III and Prince Seesio and his wife,
Tabitha ‘Masentle Lerotholi Mojela known as Queen ‘Mamohato of Lesotho, who died in 2003.