Africa

Swaziland country profile

  • 22 January 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Swaziland

The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies.

The king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life.

The struggling economy benefited from preferential access which textile exporters had to the United States until this facility was withdrawn over human rights concerns in 2015.

The country exports sugar and many Swazis work in South Africa and send their earnings home.

According to UNICEF Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. The HIV-Aids virus has killed countless Swazis who have left behind thousands of orphans. Some 210,000 people, our of a population of 1.2 million, are estimated to be living with HIV.

FACTS

The Kingdom of Swaziland

Capital: Mbabane

  • Population 1.2 million

  • Area 17,364 sq km (6,704 sq miles)

  • Major languages Swazi, English (both official)

  • Major religions Christianity, indigenous beliefs

  • Life expectancy 50 years (men), 49 years (women)

  • Currency Lilangeni

Getty Images

LEADER

King: Mswati III

Image copyright Getty Images

King Mswati III was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his long-serving father King Sobhuza II, who died at the age of 82.

The king, who is known as Ngweyama - "the lion" - often appears in public in traditional dress and has many wives.

He rules by decree and has been criticised for the heavy-handed treatment of opponents and for requesting public money to pay for new palaces and luxury cars.

Protesters angered by economic decline have become increasingly vocal in demanding political reform.

MEDIA

Image copyright Swazi Observer

In 2014, the government of King Mswati III further restrained an already weakened media environment in Swaziland, and both journalists and media outlets were targeted by officials through the use of restrictive legislation, Freedom House reported in 2015.

The government does not restrict access to the internet, but few Swazis can afford to go online, according to Freedom House.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Swaziland's history:

1894 - Britain and the Boer Republic of Transvaal jointly rule Swaziland.

1907 - Swaziland becomes a British High Commission territory.

1921 - King Sobhuza II succeeds to the throne,

1964 - Swaziland's first constitution enters into force, and King Sobhuza establishes a political party, the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM).

1968 - Swaziland is granted formal independence, within the Commonwealth, and adopts a new constitution.

1973 - King Sobhuza suspends the constitution and bans political parties.

1986 - Prince Makhosetive is crowned - three years early - and assumes the title of King Mswati III.

2007 - Thousands protest in the commercial capital Manzini to press for democratic reforms.

2014 - Swaziland appears to be stemming the pace of new infections of HIV/Aids, the UN reports.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Swazi textile industry lost preferential access to US markets in 2015 because of human rights concerns

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