Swaziland: where independence doesn't mean freedom

Today (6 September) is Independence Day in Swaziland, but for the ordinary people, independence has led to neither freedom nor prosperity. The last remaining feudal dictatorship in Africa has created one of the world's poorest country, with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS on the planet. The population of Swaziland actually appears to be falling.

And meanwhile, the polygamous King Mswati III lives in luxury, leeching off a now-bankrupt state and holding his subjects to ransom. Today, however, the people of Swaziland are demanding their freedom: freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.

Unions are at the forefront of the demonstrations, backed by their nieghbouring brothers and sisters in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). But there are many others involved – students, NGOs, and now even judges appalled at the King's attacks on judicial independence.

And unions around the world have responded to a call from the Swazi trade unions and have organised a global day of action.

Together with Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), the TUC will deliver a letter to the Swazi High Commission this lunchtime.

The Arab Spring has found too few echoes in sub-Saharan Africa. Swaziland might be a good place to start.

Owen Tudor

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