1 July 2011
Swaziland: uprising in the slip-stream of North Africa
A new, well-educated generation of Swazis have been inspired by the uprisings in North Africa, as well as compelled by their own increasingly desperate situation of mass-unemployment and poverty, to try and replace the undemocratic and corrupt absolute monarchy that is Swaziland with a democratic and fair system.
The know-how and tactics of these youths, combined with the mass mobilisation for democracy and socio-economic justice that has taken place for decades in Swaziland, that together comprised the campaign or uprising on April 12-15 , appears to be a significant breakthrough. It may not have brought about immediate democratisation but it is surely “the beginning of the end,” as a poster held by a demonstrator on April 12 proclaimed.
There are at least three common factors of the Swazi uprising in April and the North African uprisings that preceded and influenced the one in Swaziland: That no one had expected them, that they happened because of a combination of financial turmoil, youth unemployment, a year-long democratic mobilisation, the use of new social online tools such as Facebook and Twitter, that meant that the demonstrators could bypass the highly censored national media, and that they depended not on one or a few leaders, but on many, meaning that the regimes could not simply shut the uprisings down by arresting a few key people.
One of the main differences between Swaziland and North Africa in building a successful protest movement is that the technology available to the masses in North Africa, that was crucial in keeping the masses informed, simply is not there in Swaziland yet. Only about 5% of the Swazi population have an Internet connection, although mobile phones with Internet connections are becoming increasingly available.
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