17 June 2018

Swaziland: Chorus Against Swazi Election Grows

Photo: Tendai Marima/Daily Vox
(file photo)..

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) has joined the growing chorus of international observers to declare elections in Swaziland / Eswatini undemocratic.

King Mswati III rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch and political parties are banned from taking part and many political activists are labelled 'terrorists' under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Sunit Bagree, Senior Campaigns Officer at ACTSA, writing on the Swaziland Human Rights Network UK website, said, 'Local chiefs - who report to Mswati III - have enormous influence over elections to the House of Assembly, and the King directly appoints two-thirds of the Senate. Moreover, the King appoints the Prime Minister and he can veto legislation. If anyone criticises the King then they are breaking the law.'

Bagree wrote, 'It is therefore unsurprising that the 2013 national elections were condemned by international observers. For example, the Commonwealth Observer Mission recommended that the constitution should be revisited "through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society to harmonise provisions which are in conflict ... to ensure that Swaziland's commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal".

'Similarly, the European Union (EU) Election Experts Mission highlighted numerous breaches of Swaziland's international obligations and identified a "fundamental problem [with] the system of government and the respect for the principles of separation of power, rule of law and independence of the judiciary"'.

Bagree called on the Commonwealth and the European Union to do more to bring attention to Swaziland and to be more critical of the absolute monarch, King Mswati.

He wrote, 'Incredibly, the EU's Ambassador to Swaziland, Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, has gone as far as to praise the King's "wise and strong leadership"'.

Bagree added, 'Whenever criticised, both the Commonwealth and the EU are quick to point out that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is highly reluctant to take action on Swaziland. It is true that SADC has failed to hold Swaziland to account for its violations of the SADC Treaty. Indeed, Swaziland's absolute monarch was actually the Chairperson of SADC for one year from August 2016, during which time he even had the gall to urge the regional organisation's leaders "to remain committed to the ideals and principles of the SADC Treaty"'.

Bagree wrote, 'Is simply not enough to note that elections in Swaziland are flawed. The international community must apply strong, consistent and public pressure on Mswati III using a variety of diplomatic and economic levers. Only then will the King accept the need to work with all Swazis, including his political opponents, so that the country develops a democratic constitution and becomes governed by those who are properly elected and truly accountable. And only then will the citizens of Swaziland have a government that is committed to rights, equality and development for all.'

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