Kathryn Llewellyn, who runs a women’s rights charity in Swaziland called Positive Women, wrote this on her blog, reacting to news that King Mswati III of Swaziland had been invited to the British Royal Wedding this Friday.
25 April 2011
An invite to be ashamed of
I have had to rewrite this blog about 20 times. I was so angry the first few times I wrote it, that it barely made sense. I have had a week to reflect and with the help of the brilliant Paul Mason from Newsnight, who covered the story last week, there has been considerable noise made about this issue and I now feel calm enough to tell you about it.
I found out last week that the King of Swaziland has been invited to the Royal Wedding and that he would be attending with a large delegation of around 50 people and staying at the Dorchester Hotel in London. As many of your know I run a women’s rights charity in Swaziland called Positive Women and am desperately trying to help support some of the 80% of the population that live on less than $2 a day to work themselves out of poverty. It is infuriating to then see such extortionate amounts of money being spent on a trip to London at our monarchy’s request.
The people of Swaziland have bravely taken to the streets and demonstrated against the crisis the country is in. With the economy in serious trouble and human rights abuses sharply on the increase, is this really the right message we should be sending out?
Can you imagine the outcry if Mugabe was attending the wedding, or if Gadaffi was forgiven for the “big day” It is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to happen. We must not let this happen.
I have witnessed human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and let me tell you it is ugly – very ugly. But just as ugly is when it happens in Swaziland and trust me, it happens there too. Each life is important and each voice deserves to be heard, wherever it is speaking from.
The poverty I have witnessed in Swaziland has reduced me to tears. The people of Swaziland endure so much and for us to allow their King to come to the UK, at our request would be a huge blow to them. I for one will not let them suffer this complete lack of respect for their lives and their struggles, without a demonstration or two!
Swaziland has the lowest life expectancy in the world. Over 70% of the population live in absolute poverty. The people are demanding they have the right to hold the king and government accountable for public money that has gone missing yet when the king inflicts violence on his own people, the response of the UK is to invite him to the biggest national occasion of the year.
There is an important debate going on about UK foreign aid and corruption. Corruption is used as an argument against the UK giving aid to countries where it is desperately needed. Yet the message coming from our future King is that he is happy to invite to his wedding the corrupt leader of a country where people are lucky to see their 35th birthday and where freedom of the press is a dirty word. This is just unacceptable.
Some of the amazing and brave people in Swaziland have asked if we could stage a protest in solidarity with them and talk to politicians in the UK, to see if we can at the very least highlight how grossly unfair and wrong it is that King Mswati III should be enjoying an extravagant trip to London, while the women and children we are fighting so hard to support, are left with no drugs in the clinics and are lucky if they see their 35th birthday.
Please join us by adding your voice to our petition: www.positivewomen.org/petition and show the people of Swaziland that we support them and that their voices and lives are important.