Swazis demand democracy at Global Week of Action

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Swaziland’s capital Mbabane on Friday to deliver a petition which calls for democracy and socioeconomic justice to the country’s Cabinet.

The march was part of the annual Global Week of Action (GWoA) which, according to the organisers, is the biggest campaign for democracy in Swaziland. It is held during the week of Swaziland’s Independence Day, the 6th of September, and includes marches, seminars and workshops.

Between four and five thousand helped the organiser of the GWoA, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), deliver a petition to Swaziland’s cabinet, according to SUDF Coordinator Wandile Dludlu.

The petition had seven core demands for Swaziland’s government. These included a people’s government and economy, affordable health and education, equal participation for women, and land reforms and rural development.

Police presence
As in previous years, the GWoA-marchers were followed closely by the police, who often clamp down upon demonstrations and political rallies.

In 2010 and 2011, thousands of peaceful marchers during the GWoA were assaulted by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Several foreign participants were detained, roughed up and deported. Amnesty International called for those responsible for the human rights violations during the 2010 GWoA to be brought to justice in an Urgent Action.

In 2013, political and union leaders from PUDEMO and TUCOSWA were put under house arrest, offices of the democratic movement were ransacked, and many students were detained in their universities.

Freedom House wrote in 2015, that they “hope that this week’s [Global Week of Action] events [in Swaziland] serve as the spark that ignites democratic change.

Important event
According to President of the Swaziland Youth Congress, Bheki Dlamini, events such as the GWoA are important in a country where political parties are banned and the media is censored.

“The [Swazi] Tinkhundla system is supposed to be a product of the people.  Yet we all know that it is not. It is a system meant to serve the interests of the royal family and it is sustained though repression, police brutality and perpetual impoverishment of our people. The world must know and acknowledge that we, the people of Swaziland, want to enjoy civil and political liberties as citizens of the world,” Dlamini says.

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