Swazi King says political parties are no longer banned

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in southern Africa

King Mswati III, of Swaziland has said that political parties are no longer banned under the country's new constitution that came into force in February.

King Mswati III is the absolute monarch of Swaziland, a small landlocked country in southern Africa. Mswati’s father, King Sobhuza II, banned political parties in 1973. A new constitution was brought into effect by royal decree in February by King Mswati, which proclaimed the right to freedom of association and freedom of speech but did not explicitly lift the ban on political parties.

In an interview with the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), King Mswati said, "The old constitution had actually written that we banned political parties but these days when you read our new constitution, our new constitution allows the freedom of rights." He added, "There is nothing which says we ban parties."

This week marks the 20th year of Mswati's ascention to the throne. He has been criticised for his lavish lifestyle, while ruling over a country struggling with unemployment, poverty and the world's highest HIV infection rates. A pro-democracy movement has been active in the country since its independence from British colonial rule. In the last few months, there have also been firebombings of government offices and official residences, and members of a banned pro-democracy group, the People's United Democratic Movement have been arrested on treason charges.

In the AFP interview, the King also spoke against using violence to bring about change in the country, and said that "doors are wide open" to those who wanted to convey a message. He also expressed hope of international assistance in overcoming the challenges facing the country.

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This audio file was created from the text revision dated 2006-04-24 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)