A protest in support of human rights in Swaziland is planned for King Mswati III’s 50th birthday.
It will be in London on 19 April 2018 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.
Organisers ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) said in a statement, ‘King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, is likely to be in the UK for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that week. 19 April is actually the King’s 50th birthday – but for many Swazis the occasion won’t be one to celebrate. Swaziland is deeply unequal and corruption at all levels is rife. Yet those who peacefully challenge the King and his government face repression.’
It added, ‘The Commonwealth has singularly failed to hold the Swazi authorities to account. The Commonwealth Secretariat does not appear to have a strategy for applying pressure on the King. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group must now review Swaziland’s status and the Commonwealth Secretary General must explicitly support this action. The Commonwealth’s credibility is on the line.’
ACTSA said the protest would be outside the Commonwealth Secretariat (Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX) from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm. Swazi diaspora groups and international trade unionists, among others, would be participating in the protest, it said.
ACTSA, the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, has a long history of advocacy for human rights in Swaziland. One briefing paper Swaziland’s Downward Spiral: The International Community Must Act Now warned that Swaziland might plunge into a protracted crisis unless the international community, including the UK, applied serious pressure on the Government of Swaziland so that it respected human rights and developed a genuinely democratic constitution. UNISON and other UK trade unionists have also been supportive of the development of a Swazi Rural Women’s Charter, which is discussed in another ACTSA publication Women’s Rights in Swaziland.
The paper reported that King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, was one of the main reasons why women in the kingdom remain oppressed. ACTSA reported that despite claims that Swaziland was a modern country, ‘the reality is, despite pledges and commitments, women continue to suffer discrimination, are treated as inferior to men, and are denied rights’.
ACTSA added, ‘The King has demonstrated he is unwilling to change the status quo and promotes multiple aspects of the patriarchal society.’
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