One of Swaziland King Mswati III’s closest allies has used his army to attack his own people, killing hundreds of them, in a desperate bid to cling on to power.
Thousands of prodemocracy protestors are on the streets of Libya to force Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from office.
King Mswati is a close ally of Gaddafi and has made trips to Libya for talks about securing business and financial aid for the kingdom Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
One of the king’s sons, Prince Sicalo, is believed to be presently undergoing intensive military training in Libya.
Gaddafi has been caught up in the wave of prodemocracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. His preferred method of staying in power is to slaughter protestors. At least 200 have been shot by his troops, but many more might have been killed. Reports from Libya are incomplete because of a news blackout in the country.
King Mswati is a political ally and appears also to be a close friend of Gaddafi. In 2001, when King Mswati was struck down with a mystery illness (widely believed at the time to be caused by deliberate poisoning) Gaddafi flew a team of doctors to Swaziland to treat the king.
In 2009, Gaddafi sent the king six camels as ‘a token of friendship’.
King Mswati must be keeping a close eye on his friend’s problems in Libya to see what he can learn from the situation that might help him to save his own skin.
In Swaziland, there is now open talk that ‘social unrest’ might come soon.
In his budget speech on Friday (18 February 2011), Finance Minister Majozi Sithole said it was possible that the government ‘will no longer be able to pay salaries in the near future, with devastating potential consequences for our civil servants, our banks, our businesses and social peace’.
On the same day, the AFP news agency reported Vincent Dlamini, secretary general Swaziland National Public Services and Allied Workers’ Union, saying, ‘If the economy goes down, people will rise up for political change.’
Musa Hlophe, coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), writing in the Times Sunday yesterday (20 February 2011), predicted, ‘A looming conflict here in Swaziland is gathering clouds as a storm, but the authorities do not seem to appreciate it and neither is the general public paying any attention to it.’
He added, ‘The people simply want change now!’
Plans are underway for a national protest in April 2011. A group calling itself the 12 April Uprising has set up a Facebook site where it is calling for mass demonstrations. ‘We pledge, as a group, to create in the next few months the biggest mass movement that the country has ever seen. 2011 will also mark the year when we will topple the royalist regime.’
Mass protest is not unusual in Swaziland. What is different here is the very explicit call to ‘topple’ King Mswati.
‘FACEBOOK’ CALL TO OUST SWAZI KING