Swazi regime prepares to suppress peaceful demonstration

The Swazi police forces and army are preparing to clamp down heavily on today’s demonstration in Manzini. The government is prepared for demonstrations against its increasingly unpopular policies and cut-backs on public services and salaries, and has positioned 20 000 troops in and around Manzini, as well as having recently purchased new weapons for its police and paramilitary armed forces.

The demonstration has been announced by the unions and Democratic movement in an attempt to highlight and protest against the planned cuts, but is also a call for democracy. According to the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), an umbrella organization of democratic forces in Swaziland, “the regime is preparing to brutally crush the peaceful demonstrations.”

In a press statement yesterday, the SUDF insisted that “the time for an all-inclusive interim government has come. We appeal to the international community to finally heed our call for targeted smart sanctions on the collective leadership of the Tinkhundla regime until our demands are met.”

In another press statement, the Swaziland National Union of Students was even more explicit in stating that their “demand in tomorrow’s protest action is for the government to resign and the immediate establishment of a transitional government that should draft, in consultation with our people, a democratic constitution that will lead us towards free and fair democratic elections.”

On previous occasions mass protests in Swaziland, such as the “Global Day of Action” in September 2010, have been met by acts of violence by the Swazi police and armed forces.

Swaziland is nominally a middle-income nation, but the income differential in the country is huge. Unemployment is around 50%, 40% have AIDS, the average age in 31 years, and two thirds of the population has to get by for under a dollar a day. All of this while a small minority, especially the Royal family, live in luxury.

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