Swaziland – a country in a constant state of crisis

Swaziland, the last autocratic monarchy in Africa, is a country in an almost constant state of crisis. The repeated human rights violations and harassment of the Swazi democracy movement by the Swazi regime, the huge inequalities between a small Swazi elite and the poor majority, and an Aids prevalence rate of over 40% should make newspapers and governments around the world act. But these stories are rarely if ever covered by the foreign media or condemned by world leaders or governments. In recent months the house of the Swaziland United Democratic Front National Organising Secretary Secretary has been bombed, maybe by the Swazi police; the leader of the largest opposition party, PUDEMO, has been charged with acts of terrorism for speaking his mind and is more or less constantly harassed by police; student leader Pius Vilakati has gone missing after having been attempted abducted by police; human rights activist Sipho Jele has died in police custody, probably at the hands of the police; and the President of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions has had his house searched for bombs.

The latter incident, the house of Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) President Barnes Dlamini being searched for bombs, was almost certainly the Swazi regime’s response to the SFTU participating in the International Labour Organisation Conference and demanding sanctions against Swaziland. At least 12 plain clothed officers conducted the search that lasted a total of three hours. After having confiscated several of Barnes Dlamini’s books, including a book by Steve Biko, he was taken to the police station and interrogated. SFTU see the search and interrogation as being directly related to the ILO conference, its Deputy Secretary stating that “this is not so much about looking for bombs and other material but rather about intimidation, including fear and harassing us with the hope that we will be boggled into silence“.

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