Monday, April 11, 2011

Pro-democracy protests to begin in Swaziland

The pro-democracy uprisings that began in Tunisia and Egypt are starting to make their way into Sub-Saharan Africa. Protests are being organized in Swaziland for Tuesday, April 12th but any demonstrations have already been banned by the country's prime minister.

All Africa has a great analysis of the upcoming protests and what they mean for the nation's economy and government. This analysis includes statements from the groups planning to participate on what changes they want to see in Swaziland. For our snippet, we have the introduction to the piece.

Economic crisis coupled with the conspicuous luxury of an absolute monarchy committed to repression make the parallels obvious. Over 7,000 protesters marched in demonstrations three weeks ago to oppose salary cuts for civil servants. But the regime has banned Tuesday's demonstrations, organized by labor, student, and civic organizations as well as through social media.

Social media will likely make only a marginal contribution to the turnout, as only 7% of the Swazi population is estimated to have Internet access, with only about 16,000 Facebook users (1% of the population according to

The campaign does benefit from strong support from Swazi labor, student, and civic organizations as well as by a support campaign in South Africa organized by COSATU and other groups.

With public attention from South Africa, the Swazi regime may hesitate in using open force against the demonstrators. But King Mswati III, who has already ruled for 25 years, is the heir of a dynasty that dates back to 1921. His father, King Sobhuza II, suspended the constitution on April 12, 1973, five years after the country's independence. In addition to state repression and popular mobilization, the strength of traditional loyalty to the monarchy is one factor that will weigh heavily on the outcome.

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