29 October 2013

Swaziland: AU Wants Review of Swazi Constitution

The African Union (AU) mission that observed Swaziland's national elections has called for fundamental changes in the kingdom to ensure people have freedom of speech and of assembly.

In a preliminary report on the election just released, the AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed 'fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association', but in practice, 'rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed'.

The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections in Swaziland. The most recent took place on 20 September 2013.

The AU's comments follow those of the Commonwealth Observer Mission that also observed the election. In its report on the election, the Commonwealth called for Swaziland's Constitution to be rewritten to reduce the powers of King Mswati III, who rules as an absolute monarch.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the Constitution, especially in the areas of 'freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process.'

The AU called on Swaziland to implement the African Commission's Resolution on Swaziland in 2012 that called on the Government, 'to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.'

The AU also said women constituted more than 50 percent of the population of Swaziland and called on the kingdom to take measures and develop mechanisms to achieve increased representation of women and physically challenged persons in elective public positions in accordance with the Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

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