The US Embassy in Swaziland says it has ‘deep concern’ about the way police engage in ‘acts of intimidation and fear’ against people seeking their political rights.
The statement came after armed police, acting without a court order, barricaded a restaurant in Manzini to stop people attending a public meeting to discuss the forthcoming election in Swaziland.
But, it came before riot police broke up a different meeting, this time in Msunduza Township, Mbabane, which had been called by a youth group to talk to locals about the election.
The US embassy said it had deep concern about the manner in which representatives of political organisations and lawyers for human rights were treated by police.
The police blockade of the restaurant took place on 12 April 2013 and was intended to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Decree in 1973 by King Sobhuza II that tore up the constitution and allowed the king to introduce any law he wished and to change existing ones.
The decree has never been rescinded and his son, Mswati III today rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The US embassy said it was, ‘[C]oncerned that a group of people were prevented from entering a restaurant, where they had planned to hold their meeting and were forcibly removed from the premises by police’.
The statement added that the 2005 Swaziland Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
It further said Swazi security forces had a duty to protect the rights of citizens to, ‘communicate ideas and information without interference’.
This is not the first time the US embassy in Swaziland has criticised the Swaziland ruling regime. Exactly a year ago in April 2012 it said, ‘We urge the Swazi government to take the necessary steps to ensure the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Swazi citizens as outlined in the Swazi constitution, including freedom of conscience, of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, and of movement.’
The statement went on, ‘The United States government is deeply concerned about increasing infringements on freedom of assembly, as evidenced by the recent actions taken by Swazi security forces to prevent peaceful citizens from gathering for a prayer meeting on Saturday, April 14 in Manzini as well as reports of those same forces preventing people from gathering in groups of more than two people in Manzini and Mbabane on April 11 and 12.’
Reacting to the US criticism in 2012, Percy Simelane, the Swazi Government spokesperson said there were no restrictions in Swaziland. ‘There is no one who has been silenced.
He said the US was, ‘very, very, very, very ill-informed’.
POLICE BREAK UP ELECTION MEETING
ARMED POLICE BLOCK PUBLIC MEETING