The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, has falsely claimed the US President Barack Obama ‘is fully behind’ and ‘endorses’ the King’s pledge to personally rid Swaziland of AIDS.
King Mswati, attracted derision in the international arena in February 2015 when he told the Swazi Parliament ‘I wish to assure the nation that I will personally see to it that the First World Swaziland is HIV and AIDS free.’
The Observer reported on Monday (3 August 2015), ‘President Barack Obama is fully behind His Majesty King Mswati III’s pledge and commitment to have an AIDS free Swaziland by 2022.’
It said President Obama made the statement in a speech to the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 28 July 2015. But, in fact, the President made no reference to King Mswati in his speech.
In a wide-ranging speech the president drew attention to the need to rid Africa of HIV / AIDS and an initiative of the United States to target teenaged girls, which included working in Swaziland. But he did not endorse King Mswati’s pledge to personally rid his kingdom of AIDS by 2022.
The Swazi Observer’s attempt to claim support from the President hid the fact that much of his speech was devoted to the need for democracy in Africa.
King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s only absolute monarch, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government and top judges.
In part of his speech that went unreported by the Observer, President Obama said, ‘I believe Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives. We all know what the ingredients of real democracy are. They include free and fair elections, but also freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly. These rights are universal. They’re written into African constitutions.
‘The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights declares that “every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being.” From Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, democracy has taken root.’
He added, ‘Yet at this very moment, these same freedoms are denied to many Africans. And I have to proclaim, democracy is not just formal elections. When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance.
‘And I’m convinced that nations cannot realize the full promise of independence until they fully protect the rights of their people.’