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Swaziland Group Receives Award, Vows to Demand Democracy

FILE - King of Swaziland Mswati III, front, and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 13, 2012. (Reuters)

A leader of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) says an international human rights award his group received will spur it to intensify demands for democratic reforms in the Southern African kingdom.

TUCOSWA received the George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award in 2015, after the group was recognized for advocating for the rights of workers despite strong opposition from the government.

General Secretary Vincent Ncongwane says TUCOSWA has been officially registered after the government used “technicalities” to ban the workers' group for collaborating with civil and opposition groups to call for democracy.

Ncongwane says the official registration of TUCOSWA forces the government to observe international labor laws.

“The police who threaten to [prevent] our meetings for instance have themselves got to very circumspect, because now they’ve got no excuse. And now, we want to be able to talk about all issues whether it relates to workers rights, issues of democracy and human rights,” said Ncongwane.

'Take them to task'

“We are going to go on doing that, because we believe that any interference by the public authorities, government and the police, we will take them to task because it will only show the world that then our registration was a sham, and we believe that the government wouldn’t want to risk that,” he added.

He says TUCOSWA will continue to work with both local and international partners in hopes of seeing Swaziland embrace the tenets of democracy.

“[The award] tells us that we are on the right track, and further, working with our colleagues in civil society, which include the political parties in Swaziland, we will be able to achieve our target and that is to have democratization in Swaziland,” said Ncongwane.

Civil society groups and workers have routinely criticized Swaziland's King Mswati and his administration for what they say has been a sharp increase in repression and intolerance of dissent -- charges the government denies.

The groups also accuse the administration of using state institutions including the police to violently stop their meetings.

King Mswati is Africa’s last absolute monarch who chooses the government. He is not subjected to the constitution, which bans political parties from taking part in the country's elections.

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