Danish NGO protests against Norwegian MP’s support for Swaziland

“We at Africa Contact in Denmark wish to protest against the support for the Swazi regime that a Norwegian MP’s recent comments and dealings with Swaziland Meat Industries imply,” said a strongly worded protest to the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria from Danish organisation Africa Contact. The organisation has worked in Swaziland, an absolute monarchy where two thirds of the population lives below the poverty line, and where all political parties are banned, for six years.

The reason for the protest was Norwegian MP Arne Haugen’s apparent declarations of support for the Swazi regime in the Swazi Observer yesterday. “I hope that my visit here can lead to more knowledge about your country among Norwegian authorities and collaboration on social issues. I am very grateful for the hospitality I have received which is unlike any other I have seen,” he was quoted of having said.

“We believe that there is plenty of knowledge already available on the plight of the Swazi population, and hope that any collaboration on social issues that the Norwegian Government plans to undertake with the Swazi regime is accompanied by concurrent demands for much-needed democratisation and financial redistribution,” was Africa Contact’s response to this statement.

The Swaziland Meat Industries’ (SMI) had invited Arne Haugen, who will be visiting a number of processing areas later in the week. Details of the visit were published in the Swazi Observer and amongst other things included visits to “numerous farmers with feedlots in the country and those in cattle farming.”

Peculiarly, the Swazi Observer claimed that Arne Haugen was Norway’s Agricultural Minister. Either this is an example of poor journalism on behalf of the Swazi Observer, a newspaper owned by Swaziland’s King. Or it is a case of the paper trying to suck up to its owner, and try to make the visit seem more diplomatically significant than it really is.

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