The following is a report issued today (26 February 2011) by the AFP international news agency.
Facebook group urges overthrow of Swaziland’s king
MBABANE, Swaziland (AFP) – A Facebook group is calling for the overthrow of Swaziland’s king, Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch, through protests inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Lybia.
Known as The April 12 Uprising!!! it promises, “all hell will break loose in Swaziland” on April 12 2011 when “a hundred thousand men march into the country’s city centres to declare a democratic Swaziland free of all royal dominance.”
April 12 is the date in 1973 when political parties were banned, a ban still in place under king Mswati III.
Modelled on Facebook groupings in Tunisia and Egypt, the April 12th group says the winds of change will sweep through Swaziland next as “there is a large population of politically and economically disenfranchised people living under a dictator”.
“We are a pro-democracy group. We are not at all affiliated to any political party or formation,” the group’s founder, Jahings Dada told AFP.
With under 500 members, the Facebook group is still far from its 100,000-strong target. The majority of people in this impoverished nation do not have access to the Internet.
Dada says the group also has street organisers in major centres recruiting people on the quiet. He only fears the authorities’ reaction.
“The only misgiving I have about starting this group is that I know Mswati will send his soldiers to beat and kill protesters. It’s a given,” Dada told AFP.
Roughly one billion rand ($142 million, 103 million euros) of the current budget has been set aside for the police and army - roughly equivalent to the health budget in this country which has the worst AIDS epidemic in the world).
“Yes, we are spending a lot on the army but we are not anticipating what is happening in North Africa to come here,” Finance Minister Majozi Sithole told journalists, “however, the army is there to avoid such situations.”
The Swazi police have a history of crushing protests. Last year Swazi police arrested nearly 50 activists to prevent pro-democracy demonstrations.