Swazis must forget about the International Community; they are on their own!

……..Swazis are on their own

Anyone who listened to King Mswati III when he addressed the nation inside the cattle byre at Ludzidzini Royal Residence on Friday afternoon will attest to the inherent arrogance of the man and how unreasonable he is concerning the deep-seated political conflict in the country. To him, the thousands of unemployed, poor and frustrated young people calling for democracy and betterment of the economy are just crazy and devilish lunatics who have smoked marijuana. To him, it doesn’t matter that over 70 people have been killed by the soldiers, over 200 injured, others lying hopelessly in hospital beds and some amputated. He does not care about the hundreds who have been arrested for calling for democracy. He says that everyone and everything in this country belongs to him – yes, he said it expressly!

The king will not be having a dialogue with anyone and he mentioned that the SADC team that is in the country will not be achieving anything because it was just here on ‘holiday’ – on what he calls 'finding fact mission' that won’t lead to anything concrete. As the longest serving head of state at SADC (35 years) he is aware that the organization is useless and will not succeed in holding him accountable. Indirectly, he made a mockery of the current unrest in South Africa. At the end of the speech, he announced a new Prime Minister and mentioned nothing about the people’s call for a Prime Minister to be democratically elected. That was it! In case you were optimistic about anything and thought SADC or the international community will help the nation achieve democracy, forget it – you are on your own!

The Fallacy called International Community…

In his 2012 work on Rwandan Genocide and Failure of the International Community, Dominique Maritz makes some compelling conclusion regarding why the international community could not help in 1994 when over 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed in the Rwandan genocide. It is an inconvertible fact that the international community utterly failed to prevent and, at the very least, stop this atrocity. Maritz argues that while there are numerous interconnected and complex factors that led to international inaction, such as a misguided view of African conflicts, the bureaucratic nature of the United Nations and peacekeeping fatigue in general, the major actors in Rwanda – Belgium, the UN Secretariat, the US and France – knew that there was genocide underway in Rwanda; therefore, they had an obligation to prevent and stop the genocide but lacked political will. “Inaction was due to national interest: the United States decided not to intervene in Rwanda as there was no national interest at stake. France, which had national interests at stake, did not try to save Rwandan lives, but actively contributed to the genocide,” says Maritz. The Rwandan Patriotic Front forces organized and went ahead to stop the genocide without assistance from the international community and to lead the transformation agenda in Rwanda.

In Burundi the international community played some “hide-and-seek” game in the internal conflict when began when Nkurunziza decided to run for a third presidential term in April of 2015. This decision was very controversial because the constitution set a two term presidential limit, yet President Nkurunziza argued he was eligible because he was elected president by the National Assembly and the Senate for his first presidential term. There was a conflict afterwards and as of January 29, 2016, it was reported that at least 439 people have been killed in crackdowns by the government and 240,000 people have fled Burundi into neighboring countries. “While the stability and security of Burundi has been deteriorating, the international community has not been nearly as active as they have been about the Syrian, Libyan and Ukrainian crises. In the cases of Syria and Libya, there were military interventions and in Ukraine there has been intense mediation and a ceasefire established. In the case of Burundi, the European Union and United States have imposed travel bans and have frozen some assets of some officials; however, this has been largely symbolic,” said Zachary Pereira in March 2016.

It would seem that the international community, including regional and continental bodies, do not pay attention to internal conflicts unless certain players have either economic or security interests in the affairs of that particular country, such as in the French engagement in Côte d’Ivoire since late 2002 because of their interests in the biggest economy in French-speaking West Africa, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention in Lesotho through a military invasion launched by SADC and led by South Africa through its South African National Defense Force into Lesotho to quell a coup d'état in September 1998 because most of Lesotho's water goes to South Africa, either piped or in bottles that are sold in that country's main supermarkets. The list of countries or international bodies that intervene in the internal affairs of other countries because of their own interests is endless.

Generally, security organs such as the SADC Troika and AU Security Architecture are useless and ineffective in securing peace and stability. Mozambique is a clear example of the uselessness of Troika or, more broadly, SADC. In Mozambique there has been an increase in militant attacks in the country’s northern province of Cabo Delgado since 2017. SADC has failed to intervene and it has been helpless while the West such as US and other private militaries are actively involved in the conflict. While many decry and lament what they perceive to be imperialist intervention, the fact of the matter is that both SADC and the AU have been useless and this has seen Rwanda send troops to Mozambique at the annoyance of the South African government which has sour relations with Kigali.

Security issues such as riots and demonstrations are largely domestic issues, but when international crimes are committed the international community has an interest in intervening to stop atrocities and human rights violations. It is unfortunate that interventions are driven primarily by political considerations. For instance, what is happening in eSwatini is similar to what is happening in Cuba but US President Joe Biden has not mentioned eSwatini at all, but made a clear statement on Cuba and the rights of Cubans to reject their current government. Global powers including the US and UK embassies in eSwatini have issued statements condemning human rights violations and calling for dialogue, but the question is: can they go beyond statements? Of course, as Swazis ask themselves these questions they must also be cognizant of the African Union's policy of African solutions for African problems. Could this be discouraging super powers from intervening?

The sooner Swazis understand that they are on their own the better. President Museveni of Uganda also killed protesters when he stole the last election in Uganda but nothing has been done by regional bodies or the international community. Another case to be referenced here is that of former Sudanese President Al Bashir; ultimately it was the Sudanese people that had to remove him but for the longest time he roamed the continent with impunity. Even the South African government refused to arrest him whereas they had an obligation to do so as a Member State of the International Criminal Court. Also, while most Africans like to think of the late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a hero, the truth is that he presided over a regime that was committing a series of human rights violations with no reprimand by either SADC or the AU. That is why King Mswati of eSwatini is arrogant about the current situation and thinks no one can force him to consider democratic reforms. He knows how, in the words of South African poet Mzwakhe Mbuli, SADC is toothless and useless. More dictators in Africa and elsewhere are yet to emerge and oppress people because they have understood that they can get away with murder and repression since the world continues with its failure to protect democratic values in a decisive manner. Must we accept it as a norm that when young people rise against dictators and call for reforms, these barbarians will kill their way out of all opposition?