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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

CALL FOR SADC TO SUPPORT DEMOCRACY

Democrats in Swaziland are calling on SADC to press King Mswati III to allow democracy in his kingdom.

The call comes in a new report – the latest in a long line – on the lack of human rights in Swaziland.

AfriMAP, a group that monitors and promotes compliance by African states with the requirements of good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, in a report recently published, said the kingdom is ‘an island of autocratic rule’ in the SADC [Southern African Development Community] region.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned and campaigners for democracy are labelled ‘terrorists’ by the king and his supporters.

Swaziland is set to hold parliamentary elections in September 2013.

Ozias Tungwara, director of AfriMAP, said in a statement launching the report, ‘The current form of governance in Swaziland is a complete anathema to the conventional wisdom that prevails in almost all AU [African Union] member states, and certainly in SADC; the issue of dictatorships, absolutism and total state control of the citizenry is a forgotten and unacceptable notion; which is why Swaziland government must realize that it cannot delay political reforms, since it will only undermine its credibility, delay progress, economic and social development of the very people it is supposed to uplift and protect.’

The AfriMAP report, which has the support of civil society groups in the kingdom, concluded that Swaziland does not have minimum polling and democratic standards, because the right of assembly and the formation of political parties are forbidden. The report says that the political system in the country is ‘chronically deficient, and without any democratic culture or values of good governance’.

The AfriMAP report is the latest in a string of reports critical of Swaziland’s human right record.

A report published earlier this year by the US State Department revealed, ‘The three main human rights abuses [in 2012] were police use of excessive force, including use of torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and speech; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.

‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and persons with albinism; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; mob violence; and restrictions on worker rights.

‘In general perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.’

In May 2013, in its annual report on Swaziland, Amnesty International reported, rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be violated in the kingdom. There were also ‘arbitrary arrests and excessive force used to crush political protests,’ the report stated, and ‘torture and other ill-treatment remained a persistent concern’ in Swaziland.

Amnesty noted that in May 2012 the African Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution ‘expressing alarm’ at the Swazi Government’s failure to implement previous decisions and recommendations of the Commission relating to the rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

These violations included the use by police of, ‘rubber bullets, tear gas and batons to break up demonstrations and gatherings viewed as illegal’.

In April 2013, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that recently Swaziland police and state security forces had shown ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that was leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

In April 2013, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), two organiastions campaigning for democracy in the kingdom, in a joint statement said police in Swaziland were now a ‘private militia’ with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime. This was after about 80 armed officers broke up a public meeting to discuss the lack of democracy in the kingdom.

See also

KING MSWATI REGIME ‘CATASTROPHIC’
SWAZILAND STILL VIOLATES FREEDOMS
 
U.S. REBUKES POLICE OVER VIOLENCE
SWAZILAND ‘BECOMING MILITARY STATE’

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