News / Africa

Activists Decry Swaziland Terrorism Law

FILE - King of Swaziland Mswati III and one of his 13 wives arrive at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012.FILE - King of Swaziland Mswati III and one of his 13 wives arrive at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012.
x
FILE - King of Swaziland Mswati III and one of his 13 wives arrive at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012.
FILE - King of Swaziland Mswati III and one of his 13 wives arrive at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012.
Anita Powell
More than two dozen rights groups are appealing to Swaziland’s government, calling for the amendment of a terrorism act that they claim has been used to stifle peaceful opposition.  Activists in Swaziland say they are aware of at least 15 arrests in the last two months, and say detainees have been beaten and given death threats. 

The rights groups assert that Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act has been used to arrest peaceful opponents of the ruling party, and that the law needs to be overhauled to open up freedom of expression.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Swaziland is a politically unique animal. The tiny nation wedged between South Africa and Mozambique is Africa’s last absolute monarchy, co-ruled by King Mswati III and his mother.

The nation is technically a democracy, though political parties are banned and the king is the top executive who rules for life.  Swaziland held parliamentary elections in September -- but along with the 55 legislators voters got to choose, the king got to appoint 10 members of parliament on his own and name the prime minister.

Sipho Gumedze, of the Swaziland branch of Lawyers for Human Rights, said his group is aware of 18 arrests since September.

Among that group, he said, nine people were arrested in a rural area for criticizing a longtime chief.  Another three were arrested for passing out political pamphlets.  And he said he had just received recent reports of five more arrests, and that those detainees said they had been beaten and overtly threatened.

The arrests set a terrible precedent in the impoverished nation, he said.

“It perpetuates the suppression of freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of religion," Gumedze said. "That is the motivating factor why we believe the STA ought to be amended.”

His organization is one of 26 that signed the letter sent on Tuesday to top officials, including the prime minister.  Other appellants include the powerful Trade Union Congress of Swaziland and international rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Gumedze said the petitioners are appealing to the United Nations, international donors, the Southern African Development Community and neighboring South Africa to exert pressure.

Failure to intervene, he said could directly affect South Africa if the situation worsens and Swazis start to flee, as Zimbabweans in droves did during their last major political crisis.

“In the event they do not do anything, we might find ourselves in a situation such as countries like Zimbabwe, or even our neighbor, Mozambique, which is now almost on the brink of going back to civil war because of the non-cooperation of major international players who could impose upon the head of state and government to Swaziland to be open to change," said Gumedze.

Gumedze fell short of naming who in Swaziland’s government is responsible for the arrests, but one figure, King Mswati, towers over all Swazi politics.  He has ruled the nation since 1986 and has drawn intense criticism for his lavish lifestyle, which includes a dozen or more wives.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More