Thursday, August 19, 2010


BRITISH PM MEETS KING ran the headline in the Swazi Observer. What it meant, of course, was KING MEETS BRITISH PM, which isn’t quite the same thing.

King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was in Britain, begging bowl in hand, to try to drum up some trade. He won’t get too far because the British aren’t interested in setting up sweatshop textile factories and there is no wealth in Swaziland worth talking about, so there’s no one with money to buy things. Seven in ten Swazi people live in abject poverty and most of the rest are still pretty poor.

While the king was in Britain he went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where his son Prince Lindani passed out as an officer cadet. We don’t hear much about Prince Lindani. Unlike his sister Princess Sikhanyiso who graduated from university in America this year, Prince Lindani didn’t get the grades to go to college.

So, as is traditional among ‘upper class’ families, if your son is too dim to go to university, you send him to the army. If he’s really dumb he goes into the Church.

Passing out with Prince Lindani were the offspring of rulers in Yemen and Bahrain, both states with poor human rights records. It does Britain no credit to train up military for countries that oppress their populations.

I don’t know if on his trip to Britain, King Mswati popped into the Department for International Development. It is undertaking a thorough review of its international aid spending and in future will only give money to countries that can demonstrate it will be well used and where it won’t go to line the pockets of corrupt leaders.

A visit would have been an eye opener for the king and his subjects, for they would learn how little regard there is for him in Britain.

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