Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Swaziland came a long way last in a survey of 36 African countries looking at political freedom.

Of those asked, ‘In this country how free are you to join any political organisation you want?’ only 7 percent responded, ‘completely free.’

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, came last in the survey of 36 African countries. Egypt and Sudan came second bottom with scores of 27 percent.

The survey was conducted by Afrobarometer in April 2015 and results released just before Christmas 2016.

In addition, only 18 percent of those surveyed said they had complete freedom of speech and 56 percent said they had complete freedom to vote.

Political parties are not allowed to take part in elections and most of the political groupings in Swaziland that advocate for democracy have been banned under the King’s Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people: the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.
Afrobarometer reported that 56 percent of those surveyed agreed ’Government should have the right to ban any organisation that goes against its policies.’

Afrobarometer reported that the survey on human rights coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). With the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), it formalizes the right to peaceful assembly (Article 21) and freedom of association (Article 22), among other fundamental human rights. 

The report quoted the UN Special Rapporteur saying, ‘freedoms of assembly and association “are a vehicle for the exercise of many other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, allowing people to express their political opinions, engage in artistic pursuits, engage in religious observances, join trade unions, elect leaders, and hold them accountable.” As such, they play “a decisive role” in building and consolidating democracy. 

‘All African countries except South Sudan are signatories or state parties to the ICCPR, committing them to “take positive measures to establish and maintain an enabling environment” for associations – which can be anything from a prayer group to an online discussion group, a demonstration, a labor union, a political party or – yes, as long as it’s peaceful – a birthday party. No participant in an association should have to fear harassment, a travel ban, or a smear campaign, much less violence or detention.’

Afrobarometer reported, ‘Freedom of association clearly goes hand in hand with other freedoms and democracy: In places where citizens feel free to associate, they also tend to feel free to speak and vote their minds, and they perceive their countries as functioning democracies.’

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