13 April 2013

Swaziland: Swazi Police Now 'A Private Militia'

Police in Swaziland are now a 'private militia' with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime, leading pro-democracy campaigners have said.

This follows police action that yesterday (12 April 2013) broke up a public meeting to discuss the lack of democracy in the kingdom.

About 80 armed police stopped the meeting taking place at a restaurant in Manzini, the main business city in Swaziland. Police, who did not have a court order for the action, said the meeting 'presented a threat to national security'.

The meeting was to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal decree made in 1973 by King Sobhuza II that turned Swaziland from a democracy into a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarchy. The existing constitution was abandoned and King Sobhuza announced he could make any that laws he saw fit.

The decree has never been rescinded and today Sobhuza's son King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

In a statement the joint organisers of the meeting, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), said, 'The police action did well to vindicate us in our constant observation that the 1973 decree destroyed a national police service and instead left us with a private militia with no other purpose but to serve the unjust, dictatorial, unSwazi and ungodly, semi-feudal royal Tinkhundla system of misrule.'

The statement said the 1973 decree 'criminalised' all political activity and concentrated all power to the monarchy, the armed forces, intelligence services and the Swaziland Royal Police.

It said the police had no court order for their action and 'went out of their way to forcefully, aggressively and abruptly stop the peaceful national debate' that would have taken place at the meeting.

It added that a police service 'should uphold justice, human dignity and protect all sections of society in accordance with the law'.

Last week, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that recently Swaziland police and state security forces had shown 'increasingly violent and abusive behaviour' that was leading to the 'militarization' of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, 'There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country's undemocratic elections.'

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