Voices asking for democracy in Swaziland/ Des voix s’élèvent pour demander la démocratie au Swaziland

(Liens en anglais/ links in english)

Ocnus.net nous présente une nouvelle du Swaziland où les syndicats ont initié un mouvement de protestation qui a paralysé le pays. Ce mouvement exige de la part du roi Mswati III, qu’il permette l’ouverture démocratique de son royaume. En effet, le Swaziland est l’une des dernières monarchie absolue de le planète.

Ocnus.net brings us the news about tiny Swaziland, a small landlocked country stuck between South Africa and Mozambique. This country is one of the last absolute monarchy in the world, but that may come to an end with protests going on that paralysed the country. People want the king, Mswati III , to allow democracy in his kingdom:

Protest Brings Swaziland to a Standstill
By Lunga Masuku, Sowetan 26/7/07
Jul 31, 2007 – 9:10:18 AM

MBABANE – Swaziland ground to a halt today as thousands of workers staged the country’s biggest demonstration for over a decade in a push for multi-party democracy in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

As riot police and plain-clothed officers kept a close eye on a mass march in the capital Mbabane, union leaders warned such shows of strength would be repeated if King Mswati III and his government did not meet their demands.

“It is about time that the people of Swaziland realise that they made a big mistake by making the king an absolute monarch,” Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions secretary-general Jan Sithole told the marchers in downtown Mbabane.

“If the situation does not change such protests will become the order of the day,” he added as traffic was brought to standstill.

Sithole said the traditional tinkhundla system of government – under which the king retains full executive, legislative and judicial powers – was dragging the country into poverty.

“Seventy percent of the people of the country live below poverty line, while only 10 percent of the ruling elite enjoy the wealth,” he added to a roar of approval from striking workers.

Unionists want a ban on political parties contesting next year’s general election to be overturned, saying that only a multi-party system will bring genuine democracy to the former British colony.

“It was political parties that brought independence to Swaziland and it will be political parties that will liberate the country from the system that now exists,” said Sithole.

He said the protesters did not seek the overthrow of the king, who is husband to 13 wives, but merely to trim his powers.

“Even now political parties and unions want a king that will reign, not rule.”

The protest in Mbabane comes a day after a similar demonstration in the centre of the second city of Manzini.

Schools and government factories were once again closed while while hospitals and banks were operating skeleton services.

Yesterday’s march in Manzini was marred by reports of looting and many shops had closed their shutters in Mbabane in anticipation of fresh violence.

The marchers stoned a furniture shop but there were no other reports of violence.

Government spokesman Percy Simelane insisted the protests had had little impact and said they were “nothing” compared to the last major protests by democracy activists in 1996.

“Our offices and shops are operating normally. However the industrial sector has been slightly affected but this does not scare the government at all,” said Simelane, who had earlier urged unions “to put the economic needs of the country at heart” before striking.

Landlocked Swaziland is one of the poorest countries in Africa, a situation compounded by the Aids pandemic.

It has the highest rate of HIV in the world – with more than 40 percent of adults infected, and 70 percent of the 1.1 million citizens live on less than one dollar a day.

It is also currently facing a major drought, with the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warning earlier this week that more than 400,000 people face starvation as a result of poor maize harvests.