News / Africa

    Swaziland Festival Held Despite Boycott Call

    MBABANE, Swaziland - Swaziland exiles called for a boycott of the 6th annual Bushfire festival this weekend to protest the kingdom's government policies. But the boycott did not appear to slow the three-day musical and cultural event.


    Thousands of people happily dance on the grass to the tune of a local Swazi band, with few appearing to worry about the boycott call that put Swaziland's Bushfire Festival in the middle of controversy. 

     

    For the second year, the Swaziland Solidarity Network, an association of Swazi people living in South Africa, has targeted the festival to try to put pressure on the kingdom's government.  

     

    Network spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said, "It is mainly to show some support that not everything is normal as it is publicly portrayed in Swaziland."


    Swaziland is one of the poorest countries in the world, and has one of the world's highest rate of HIV/AIDS, with one Swazi out of four HIV positive. The country's monarch, King Mswati III, is often criticized for leading a luxurious life, in stark contrast with most of his people.  He has come under international criticism for pursuing his personal interests at the expense of his country.

     

    Recent violent crackdowns on opposition protests have increased social tension.  

     

    The opposition Network's Lukhele explains the Bushfire festival is sponsored by Swazi telecommunications company MTN and was not targeted randomly.

    "The Swazi government owns 51 percent now of the MTN Swaziland, and MTN Swaziland is a sponsor.  So effectively, the king is sponsoring this thing," he said. 


    But according to Bushfire director Jiggs Thorne, the exile network is aiming at the wrong target, and boycotting the festival would do more harm than good for the Swazi people.

    "Since our inception, we have been very keen to make a difference, through our Call to Action campaign.  We facilitate this gathering of people, and exchange of ideas, with a very clear conscience," he said. 


    He says the festival gives artists and performers a platform for diversity of cultural expression and creates opportunities for open debate.


    In response to the boycott effort, the festival has opened "The Barn," a place where politics and social issues are discussed during the three days.


    Only a handful of artists honored the boycott, but they include the popular singers Zahara and Lira.  As for those artists who came, especially international singers, some did not know about the boycott. 


    Swazi singer Bholoja knew about it, but says he feels it was uncalled for, because the festival has a lot of charity projects.

    "I think it is very unfair what is happening because Bushfire is not about only having fun, taking ourselves out there, but there is a mission behind it. It is serving people who are in need, orphans.  Bushfire provides accommodation, means, futures for the children," he said.

    About 20,000 people attend the Bushfire Festival each year and the call for a boycott has not deterred people from coming.  

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora