Swaziland: Wikileaks documents shows government prioritises repression over poverty and democracy, says ACTSA
By Sarah | February 24, 2011
ACTSA press release, 24 February 2011
According to a US diplomatic cable, released by Wikileaks, the British Government refused a US$60M export licence for assault rifles, heavy machine guns, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters to be exported to Swaziland in 2008.
The leaked cables show the US Ambassador to Swaziland suggested the arms might be destined for ‘a middle eastern country’, however,it is more likely that they were for use in Swaziland itself. Official documents show the British government’s concern was these arms may be used for internal repression.
Britain was right to block the shipment. In recent years Swaziland has experienced a massive increase in the use of force to crush dissent. King Mswati III rules a population of just over one million people by authoritarian means; political and civic activists are threatened and imprisoned. There is less political freedom than in Zimbabwe.
Swaziland is in a major economic crisis yet is proposing to spend almost 10 per cent of its 2011-12 budget on the army and police. On 23 February the Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole said “Yes, we are spending a lot on the army but we are not anticipating what is happening in North Africa to come here…However, the army is there to avoid such situations.”
The king and his government spend money the country does not have lining their pockets and buying weapons of repression. They are cutting jobs and services which will undoubtedly drive the nation’s poorest deeper into poverty.
Tony Dykes, Director of ACTSA said:
“We are pleased that the British Government blocked this shipment of arms to Swaziland. We hope they did not get the arms from anywhere else. The Swazi government has an appalling record of crushing dissent. For a country enduring a major financial crisis, where 70 per cent of the population live in absolute poverty, it can not be right for a government to prioritise repression over tackling poverty and supporting democracy.”