Saturday, June 29, 2013


News that Swaziland’s army has taken delivery of another arms shipment has sparked fears that King Mswati is acting as an intermediary for a rogue state that cannot directly buy arms due to embargoes.

The Swazi Army took delivery of an arms shipment on Thursday (27 June 2013), including firearms and other military hardware.

Local media reported a cargo plane delivered the shipment under conditions of great secrecy. 

The shipment has aroused the suspicion of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a prodemocracy organisation banned in the kingdom.

Swaziland already has more than a million rounds of ammunition and weapons to fire them and there is little reason for King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to buy more.

In a statement SSN said, ‘[A]t the moment our network is not excluding the possibility that the country is being used as an intermediary by rouge states who cannot directly buy arms due to unilateral arms embargoes. 

‘For the last decade Swaziland has had the dubious record of having one of the highest defence budgets. What made this record further ridiculous was the fact that the country has never been invaded in its entire history and boasts excellent relations with its neighbours, with whom it has signed security pacts disallowing either neighbouring country to be used by a third party as a base for military aggression against the country.

‘It is not easy to therefore conclude that all arms purchased by the country are intended for internal use against dissenters. The special weapons purchased by the Swazi army of late raise eyebrows. Sources within the defence force indicate that some of the shipments include unusual equipment such as anti-aircraft rocket launchers, which can never be used to quell local civil unrest even by the most wasteful army.

‘The answer to this intriguing choice of weaponry can be found in a 2011 Wikileaks cable which indicates that the United Kingdom government once blocked a similar arms shipment worth over $60 million. An arms broker trading under the name Unionlet had applied for a license to import the arms into Swaziland. According to the cable the reason for blocking the shipments was that the UK government had “end user concerns”. 

‘Whether king Mswati has become a middle-man for arms dealers or he is hell-bent on staying in power by waging war on his own subjects leads to one conclusion: that is the world has to restrict the amount and type of arms that the country can purchase.

‘Taiwan, The European Union and the United States in particular are countries which hand out aid to king Mswati’s government. Together they have enough leverage to demand responsible use of available resources from king Mswati. They should use that leverage. It is an insult to these countries for this despot to purchase arms for killing the very population that friendly states help to keep alive.’

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