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29 Oct 2005 08:40
A police officer was critically injured in one of three petrol bombings in Swaziland on Friday, the latest in a series of arson attacks that Africa’s last absolute monarchy blames on banned political groups.
There have been at least six explosions targeting police, government officials and court houses since last month in the kingdom of about one million people.
The latest attacks occurred at the homes of two police officers in the capital, Mbabane, and one in the eastern town of Siteki, police spokesperson Vusie Masuku said. They were the first to cause casualties.
The spate of petrol bombings comes at a time of mounting frustration in the impoverished, Aids-ridden kingdom, which has been ruled by royal decree since 1973, when the late King Sobhuza II banned political parties.
A new Constitution that comes into effect in January strengthens human rights protections, but entrenches the power of Sobhuza’s son, King Mswati III.
Mswati continues to command widespread loyalty despite criticism of his lavish spending, including fine homes and cars for his 12 wives.
Police blame the attacks on opposition groups, including the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo).
Pudemo president Mario Masuku denied any involvement, but said the explosions were a sign of frustration over the government’s refusal to hold a referendum on the new Constitution.
“Some people are not happy with the way Swaziland is governed,” he said.
Prime Minister Themba Dlamini has labelled the spate of arson attacks as terrorism.
Last week, he attempted to revive heavily criticised legislation first proposed in 2002 to strengthen the government’s hand. But parliamentarians deferred consideration of the Internal Security Bill until after the new Constitution comes into effect, arguing that it could violate some of the Constitution’s human rights provisions.—Sapa-AP
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