Times of Swaziland
15 September 2008
British take on 40/40, elections
By RT HON. PAUL BOATENG
(British High Commissioner)
Swaziland is entering a new leg of its development journey, 40 years since its independence from the United Kingdom.
On September 19, the Swazi people will elect their first Parliament under the 2006 constitution.
This constitution is a beginning; its full implementation in the letter and spirit of its reforming intentions is essential. This week, the eyes of the world will be watching as you go to the polls.
My government has made no secret of the fact that we hope this will mark a first crucial step towards the introduction of a fully-fledged multi-party system, as envisaged by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) electoral principles and guidelines that Swaziland has itself signed up to.
These are regional norms that the rest of the world supports and which should surely be implemented in every SADC country.
They serve as a key African-designed and owned process to help guide the region towards a strengthening of good governance and accountability – and lead to enhanced development and security for its people.
The people of Swaziland deserve this too.
As I have said publicly before, the UK welcomes continued local debate on these key issues to further the promotion of the rule of law, freedom of association, transparency, protection of human rights and accountability in public affairs.
I attended the celebrations to mark the country’s 40 years of independence from Britain out of respect for Swaziland’s birth as a sovereign nation.
We take pride in our long association with Swaziland, recognise the evolution of our relationship and salute your nationhood. My country’s historical, cultural and personal ties with you, the people of the Kingdom of Swaziland, remain strong.
Britain now manages that relationship from our regional base in Pretoria, but my deputy and myself continue to travel regularly to Swaziland.
We remain actively engaged in developments in your country and conduct regular full and frank discussions with your leaders.
We also meet with a range of interlocutors, including from the opposition parties, civil society, the unions and churches, development partners and other members of the diplomatic community.
Much work is underway with your nascent institutions but many challenges remain in Swaziland’s development path.
The UK continues to help meet these challenges by making a substantial contribution through international organisations operating locally, including the EU and UN agencies.
Last year, the UK provided £3.3m alone in humanitarian assistance to respond to food shortages in the kingdom, following its worst drought in 15 years. Swaziland also benefits from our regional development programmes for Southern Africa in the AIDs, food security and financial market sectors.
I am pleased as High Commissioner to be able to lend my personal support to the many good people in my country who, as individuals, support a range of projects in Swaziland from water wells, HIV/Aids clinics to schools.
They join with their counterparts in Swaziland to bring help and hope to those in need.
These efforts, if they are to stimulate the growth and development that Swaziland needs, must be matched by reform in the institutions of governance.
Swaziland is making its contribution to the region currently as Chair of SADC’s Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Co-ordination. Reform in Swaziland cannot be further delayed.
May God bless Swaziland on its 40th Birthday.