It is time for the international community to act in response to the Swazi government’s repeated human rights violations, says Wandile Dludlu, Project Coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front, an umbrella organisation of all progressive democratic forces in Swaziland. A month ago the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland, where Swaziland amongst other things accepted to guarantee freedom of assembly, association and freedom of expression. The Universal Periodic Reviews examine the human rights performance of all UN member states.
Amnesty International welcomed this acceptance in a public statement, although Amnesty indicated that Swaziland still had to “remove all restrictions impeding the full exercise of civil and political rights, including through meaningful participation of political parties in elections.”
As has happened more or less routinely, however, such promises of upholding the rule of law by the Swazi government were followed by actions that disregarded these promises. Last week Swazi security forces more or less forcefully detained most of the leaders of the Swazi democratic movement without charge and barred thousands more from joining a peaceful protest, in clear violation of their freedom of assembly, association and expression. And this is only the latest of a long list of more or less violent disregard for human rights and the rule of law by the Swazi government.
The Swazi democratic movement has grown tired of its peaceful calls for democracy and socio-economic justice being met with arrests or violence whilst the international community treats Swaziland as if it might someday, somehow live us to its promises, and is calling for tougher measures against the Swazi government. “Maybe the time for Europe to remove the gloves in regard to the Swazi monarchy has come. Blatant disregard for human rights and democracy can’t be allowed anymore. Developmental aid must be stopped until the king commits to democracy. Especially because the Cotonou agreement is repeatedly violated,” Wandile Dludlu of the Swaziland United Democratic Front tells Africa Contact.
The Cotonou Agreement is a development treaty between the EU and over 70 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states that is aimed at poverty reduction of the ACP states by, amongst other things, funding sustainable development.
As the strategy paper between Swaziland and the EU that is based on the Cotonou Agreement, which channels 70 million Euros to Swaziland between 2008 and 2013, obliges Swaziland to uphold its human rights obligations and seek to implement good governance, this is therefore an obvious place to start.
By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
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