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Swaziland Group Demands Political Prisoners Release

  • Peter Clottey

File - Swaziland's King, Mswati III, addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2013 at U.N. headquarters.

File - Swaziland's King, Mswati III, addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2013 at U.N. headquarters.

Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) has demanded the unconditional release of all political prisoners including Mario Masuku, leader of the banned opposition People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

The government declared PUDEMO and three other political parties as terrorist groups in 2008.

Wandile Dludlu, national coordinator for the SUDF, says his group plans to organize a series of activities on Tuesday to put pressure on King Mswati III and his administration to open the political space for democratic reforms.

“This coming Tuesday as part of the preparation of the September global week of action for democracy, upon which we will be mobilizing and launching a series of activities that are meant to popularize the undemocratic nature of his majesty’s government,” said Dludlu.

“[We will] educate a world to raise their voice against his majesty particularly the European Union, the Americans to put their foot down against his majesty’s adamancy on maintaining an oppressive and repressive political situation in the country which is not helpful to anybody and at worse the Swazis themselves,” he added.

He says pro-democracy activists in the Southern African kingdom would not be deterred by the use of security agencies to violently suppress the demands for democratic reforms.

“We have to make as much noise that in this day and age citizens of Swaziland get to be arrested for merely expressing their political views in the country that is a signatory to the United Nations conventions as well as many other regional and inter-continental treaties committing to respect human rights, which includes among others political rights, and then come back into our country and do the opposite,” said Dludlu.

The government has often accused PUDEMO and other pro-democracy groups of violent activities aimed to destabilize the kingdom. Swaziland's constitution prevents the formation of political parties.

“That definitely is some of the evidence to prove his majesty’s hostility towards democracy," said Dludlu. "How do you sustain the precolonial condition and hostility?

"So Mario Masuku and the rest of the political activists in Swaziland are pursuing a struggle for the democratization of Swaziland, which will present us with an environment wherein human rights, where freedom of expression, movement and association would be duly respected and recognized.”

He said it is unacceptable for the government to keep enforcing a 1973 decree banning the formation of political parties in the country. Dludlu says the administration continues to persecute those who demand democracy.

“There is no evidence which supports the government’s position as a justification for arresting president Mario. He is a well-known human rights advocate, political activist. He has never in his life as an activist been convicted of any violence means of pursuing his agenda. He is a very peaceful agent for change,” said Dludlu.



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