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Friday, 4 March 2011

ARMS SHIPMENT HEADS TO SWAZILAND

The following is a report from the AFP news agency today (4 March 2011)


Swaziland 'imports firearms through Mozambique'

MAPUTO — Swaziland is importing two containers of firearms through a Mozambican port, two years after Britain blocked an arms shipment to the southern African kingdom, Mozambican state media said Friday.

The arms arrived in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, on a Panamanian vessel on February 28 from an unspecified country, state daily Noticias reported.

"The containers in question at the Maputo Port were in transit to neighbouring Swaziland, in an operation authorised by Mozambican authorities and covered by a special agreement between the governments of Mozambique and the kingdom of Mswati III," said the paper, citing an unnamed police source.

Noticias said the arms would be transported to Swaziland under police escort.

Mozambican police chief Jorge Khalau and spokesman Pedro Cossa declined to comment.

Swaziland has reportedly had trouble importing arms in the past because of concerns about how Africa's last absolute monarchy would use the weapons.

In December 2008, Britain blocked a Swazi move to buy arms worth $60 million (43 million euros) from a British company over "end-use concerns," according to a US embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

The cable speculated that the Swazi government planned to use the helicopters, armoured vehicles and machine guns to "build up domestic capability to deal with unrest" or sell the arms on to a Middle Eastern country or Zimbabwe, which is under a European Union arms embargo.

The Swazi defence ministry said it planned to use the arms for an African peacekeeping mission.

Police in Swaziland have a history of crushing protests against King Mswati III's regime. Last year they arrested nearly 50 activists to prevent pro-democracy demonstrations.

A Facebook group is currently calling for the king's overthrow through protests inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Lybia.

Known as "The April 12 Uprising!!!" it promises "all hell will break loose" on April 12 when a hundred thousand men will march for "a democratic Swaziland free of all royal dominance."

April 12 is the date in 1973 when political parties were banned in the country.

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