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The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Celebration of marriage brought people together"
 real 28k

Friday, 18 February, 2000, 15:29 GMT
Lesotho's batchelor king weds

The king says Karabo will be his only bride


King Letsie III of Lesotho - Africa's last batchelor king - has married science graduate Karabo Motsoeneng in a ceremony attended by thousands of people in the capital, Maseru.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela was among the dignitaries who arrived for the ceremony.

The national sports stadium was filled to its capacity of 40,000 people, with thousands more of the monarch's subjects turned away.

Reports say the king, 36, was greeted with a deafening roar on his arrival at the stadium - as were Ms Motsoeneng, and Mr Mandela.

The marriage ceremony was conducted by Maseru's Roman Catholic Archbishop Bernard Mohlalefi.

Lavish festivities

The lavish festivities, costing this poor nation more than $1.5m, are expected to last all weekend.

The king has said Ms Motsoeneng, a commoner, will be his only bride.

Presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana, Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, and Joachim Chissano of Mozambique attended the wedding, as did former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda.

Woman sweeps the road in Maseru Cleaning up before the big day
Another guest was South African Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - the man who controversially ordered the South African army into Lesotho during a short spell as acting president in 1998.

Long-awaited marriage

The ceremony has been widely welcomed by the people of the landlocked mountain kingdom, who had begun to wonder whether the shy and modest king would ever find himself a bride.

"My dear mother has started to get worried," the king said in 1997.

"Sometimes I worry and feel quite jealous seeing other leaders get partners with such ease" - a possible reference to the polygamous King Mswati III of nearby Swaziland.

Unity

The wedding has become a focus of unity in a kingdom which has been riven by deep political divisions in recent years.

During unrest in 1998, opposition party supporters appealed to the king to intervene, believing that a general election result was fraudulent.

But the monarchy, once a powerful force in Lesotho, now plays a largely symbolic role in uniting the nation.

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See also:
02 Sep 99 |  Africa
Uganda's 'wedding of the century'
10 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Lesotho's white gold
22 Mar 99 |  Africa
Lesotho's prayers answered
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