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September 06, 2008

I haven't blogged Swaziland in long time.

It's the king's birthday.

"I'm aware that many in the world might be wondering why we are so excited about the celebrations of our 40th anniversary," the king told the crowd. "The answer is simple. We are celebrating our nationhood."

However, the so-called 40-40 party was preceded by demonstrations against its excessive cost in a country that has the world's highest AIDS rate and where only one in four Swazis lives to be 40.

Making 40th birthday parties something of a rarity in the nation.

The cost was officially put at $2.5 million, but it was widely believed to be at least five times more.


Mswati urged residents to vote for people who can tackle Swaziland's huge problems. Many previous government officials have been criticized for serving only their own personal interests.

"We need people who take their responsibilities seriously," he said.

Stones. Glass houses.

The NYTimes, which gives most of the dangerous plutocrats in this country a pass, had a story as well.

“How can the king live in luxury while his people suffer?” asked Siphiwe Hlophe, a human rights activist. “How much money does he need, anyway?”

Many of us wonder that about many rich people.

AFP has a story about AIDS in Swaziland.

At only 15 Nonsikelelo Hlophe is old beyond her years after she and her siblings lost both their parents to HIV-AIDS, turning the family into one of thousands headed by children.

That's a bit of an exaggeration. There's a 22 year-old brother, but the gist remains true. Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned by the disease. Treatment, only recently available in the country, is offered primarily by foreign NGOs.

But don't run away with the idea that the king isn't trying to help. In 2001, he asked all Swazi 'maidens' to abstain from sex for five years. I'm not sure if he thought everyone infected would die off in the interim or what. (All 'maidens' except for the 17 year-old he picked to marry that year.) (And the 18 year-old he picked to marry in 2003.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:31 PM


We shouldn’t let these lavish celebrations hide the very real human rights abuses that are taking place in Swaziland. The King rules by decree, political parties are banned and the parliament has no powers. The King selects the Prime Minister. This week police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at marchers protesting for democracy. While the King has a wealth estimated at 200 million US dollars, seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than one US dollar a day. Six in ten people rely on international food aid and four in ten are said to be moving from hunger to starvation. Swaziland also has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. For more information on human rights issues in Swaziland visit my blog at www.swazimedia.blogspot.com

Posted by: Swazi Media at September 7, 2008 04:14 AM