Swaziland
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HUMAN RIGHTS ARE EVERY PERSON’S ENTITLEMENT

“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity” - the late Mother Teresa.

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. Last week, the Eswatini News Saturday’s edition carried a very ominous headline, (with an accompanying article) titled, ‘US Senators target sanctions on Eswatini individuals...’ According to the article, four United States of America lawmakers from the country’s upper chamber, filed a resolution to Senate that seeks, ‘to facilitate targeted sanctions against individuals found to have grossly violated human rights in Eswatini.’ The lawmakers also called upon the Eswatini Government to conduct a, ‘thorough and transparent investigation into the assassination of Thulani Rudolph Maseko in January 2023.’

The resolution first gave the secretary of State, and secretary of treasury, pointers among others, to what had been, and, is going in the country, like:
* How advocates for democracy in Eswatini faced repression, arbitrary arrests, torture, detention, including restrictions on political gatherings, freedoms of expression, association, as well restrictions on freedom of the press.
* How the Government of Eswatini used laws such as Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 and the Sedition and Subversion Act of 1938 to suppress free speech and criticism of the monarch.
* How a blanket ban on protests by the people who demanded full adherence to democratic principles resulted in near, complete anarchy, with security forces using excessive force, which allegedly resulted in the deaths of over 46 people; how our government conducted arbitrary arrests, and detention of protesters; and, how it shut down the internet at the time of the unrests, etcetera, in a crackdown on the protesters that unfolded from june to october, 2021
* It also mentioned something about the controversial arrests, and incarceration of two Members of Parliament (mps), who were charged under the Suppressed of Terrorism Act.
The list of the pointers is quite extensive, and deeply worrying.

But, before I tackle any further this disconcerting subject, I believe it is of vital importance to understand the importance attached to the  adherence to global, human rights values by the superpower, United States of America (USA) Government.  Briefly, and, in part in its official website https://www.state.gov/policy-issues/human-rights-and-democracy/, the Government of the USA states that, quote: “The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of US foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Supporting democracy not only promotes such fundamental American values as religious freedom and worker rights, but also helps create a more secure, stable, and prosperous global arena in which the United States can advance its national interests.

“In addition, democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure the peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect American citizens, combat international terrorism and crime, uphold human and worker rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health... The United States uses a wide range of tools to advance a freedom agenda, including bilateral diplomacy, multilateral engagement, foreign assistance, reporting and public outreach, and economic sanctions. The Department of State works with democratic partners, international and regional organisations, non-governmental organisations, and engaged citizens to support those seeking freedom...” - unquote. Our country Eswatini, is a very minor insignificant player in the global, political arena. If truth be told, the country, in terms of global influence, is simply a minnow - a nonentity.

deeply concerned

We are - especially, economically - a supplicant country, which relies heavily on foreign aid to sustain its economic growth. We import numerous goods, including food items, and, pharmaceuticals drugs for the healthcare sector, from powerhouse countries like South Africa and the very USA, which is deeply concerned about our adherence to human rights. It is also very important that as a country, we understand that we are no longer living in an ‘island’, that is, living in isolation, safely cocooned in our own fiefdom, shielded from the international community’s scrutiny, especially in the manner we govern our people. Adherence to human rights and, democratic principles are two of the most important concepts, which superpower countries like the USA are very fastidious about. For years, these superpower countries had been urging our government to fix its deplorable record in as far as human rights are concerned - but, in vain. Local activists, as well ordinary people had always decried the manner our government represses the fundamental human rights of the people. All this had more often than not, fallen on deaf ears.

As much as we are justified by international law to protect our sovereignty as a State, including none interference in our internal affairs, we cannot willy-nilly do as we please, especially, by aggressively violating with impunity, internationally recognised, global human rights of citizens. The USA, in particular, is a very influential, powerful and colossal, international player in global politics. When it snarls or growls, countries are compelled to pay attention. As much as it is viewed with abhorrence by some countries, the imposing behaviour of the USA, whom they claim it has no right to act as an ‘international policing country’, especially, by those with deplorable human rights records, the glaring fact is that if the USA conveys its concerns about the undemocratic manner some countries govern their people - they better listen, act or.. else. As much as we claim, and tell whoever cares to listen that we are a ‘unique’, home-brewed democracy, it is important that we understand that we are signatory to numerous, international conventions that protect the fundamental human rights of our citizens.

suppress human rights

It is also important to understand that much-needed aid from donor countries have strings attached. We cannot simply beg for aid from powerful, democratic countries like the USA, while on the other hand, we suppress the human rights of our people. These powerful countries might not act overnight against our country’s violation of the people’s human rights, or appear oblivious of what is going on in the country, but, sooner or later, they will demand accountability. We can no longer fool or hoodwink the international community that we adhere to globally accepted, human rights concepts. We’re living in the golden age of instant communication. Whatever we do is at the bat of an eyelid, communicated to the international community. Let it not escape our attention that we have envoys and embassies in the country representing their various, global countries, many of them who practice true, democratic principles, and, most importantly, some of them feed our hand which unashamedly goes to them, cap in hand, begging for aid.

The USA is one of the main countries who, for decades, had always extended to us much needed aid. It is very disheartening at times, to listen to the arrogant responses of our government’s ‘errand boys’ of the calibre of our so-called, government’s spokespersons, uttering disrespectful, sarcastic and undiplomatic remarks directed to international criticism whenever their responses are sort. We are cognisant of the fact that they are singing for their supper, but, hayi mani, they sometimes take it to the extremes. For Pete’s sake! These are powerful, donor countries, and it calls for tact and diplomacy whenever the need to criticise them arises! I sometimes wish their handlers could call them to order, at times.
It is important to understand that nothing that is happening in the country escapes the attention of the various envoys stationed in the country. Their ears are constantly on the ground. We are always under their radar, especially, concerning matters of how we practice human rights.

They report back to their governments about undemocratic actions like police brutality, suppressing of fundamental human rights, which may include freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and many other human rights. They have intimate knowledge, for instance, about what took place in the country in June 29, 202, going forward, and, to date. As much as local, political activists might report human rights violations by our government to such countries, it is important to note that these countries have their own, top notch intelligence about what is going under the noses of their envoys. I also cringed with concern as I read the contents of the article where it was mentioned that the US, upper chamber, lawmakers also called for Eswatini to convene the national dialogue before the elections scheduled for this year:

credible

Quote: “Expeditiously initiate pre-dialogue preparations and announce a firm date by which a credible, inclusive dialogue on constitutional and political reform will begin, starting prior to scheduled September 2023 elections.” This is the sentiment conveyed by many people in the country, especially, those who attend the ongoing, civic and voter education exercise, which is conducted by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) concerning the upcoming elections. They are adamant that the dialogue should be a priority, with others putting it succinctly clear that how can the nation go to the polls when there is so much fear, intimidation, and tension engulfing the whole country. Now, what are ‘targeted sanctions against individuals?’ What are their pros and cons? Will our ‘democratic’ government take any positive actions to avoid this ominous threat of tabling the resolution by the four senators?
According to Think Tank, European Parliament, targeted sanctions are: “One of the tools utilised to address human rights violations. They are also an increasingly prominent tool, especially in the European Union’s foreign policy. International sanctions policy is part of a global trend towards individualisation: Rather than affecting the State as a whole, bans nowadays are targeted at individuals identified as responsible for the abuses...”

The Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), goes on further to describe targeted sanctions: ‘Targeted sanctions’ or ‘smart sanctions’, like ‘smart bombs’, are meant to focus their impact on leaders, political elites and segments of society believed responsible for objectionable behaviour, while reducing collateral damage to the general population and third countries. “Growing emphasis on the individual accountability of those in power for the unlawful acts of states (highlighted by the Pinochet case and the Bosnian war crimes trials), has made the concept of targeted sanctions all the more attractive...” What form do some targeted sanctions take? PIIE elaborates, these targeted measures could be arms embargo, travel bans, asset freezes.
1. “Arms embargoes are targeted in the sense that their purpose is to bend military and political leaders by denying them access to weapons and other military equipment, while sparing the civilian population.
2. “Travel or aviation bans fall into two categories: Restrictions on all air travel to and from a target country, and restrictions on the travel of targeted individuals, groups or entities. In the case of restrictions on air travel to and from a target country, or areas under control of targeted groups the assumption is that the flight ban will affect people in power substantially more than the general population. Travel bans and visa restrictions against individuals not only avoid the possible humanitarian impacts of broader travel restrictions, but also are useful in denying legitimacy to political leaders, military officials and their supporters...
3. “Asset or financial freezes of targeted individuals: These include measures such as a freeze on foreign assets of specifically designated individuals, State-owned companies and governments.”

targeted sanctions

Finally, do such targeted sanctions normally work? Well...I’m no authority on the subject. We will only know when, and if the resolution is adopted, won’t we, dear reader? My take on the whole, targeted sanctions conundrum? Well, for starters, I would sincerely urge our government to consider seriously the seriousness of the intended action by the USA lawmakers. Our government, as much as it appears confident, conceited, and, unimpressed by the intended action, needs to put side its haughty attitude aside, and avoid such scrutiny by improving its human rights record. Without any shadow of doubt, the country had long been on the radar of the international community. We need to avoid as much as it possible the international community ganging up against us.

Once the international community begins imposing international sanctions, it would be curtains for the country. Sanctions - individually targeted or not - are anathema to the ordinary man on the street. It is the rank, and file who would be adversely affected. Adherence to human rights by governments is vital. We are a country torn apart by serious, political, and socioeconomic divisions. There is mounting hatred for authority. People are fed up with the manner we are governed. There is dire poverty, corruption, economic woes largely affecting the ordinary man on the streets. People cannot freely exercise