- Accepting a prestigious democracy award given by the Danish parliament, Swaziland's opposition leader Mario Masuku asked for international sanctions against the kingdom. The Swazi government called the award "unfortunate".
Mr Masuku is President of Swaziland's leading opposition party, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), which has been banned along with other opposition parties and organisations. The prominent pro-democracy activist this week accepted the Democracy Award, handed out every year by the Copenhagen parliament, though he was prevented from visiting the Danish capital.
In his acceptance speech, read out to Danish MPs, Mr Masuku said the award was an important international appreciation of the "struggle of the people of Swaziland for the past 37 years." During that time, PUDEMO had continued to "wage a peaceful struggle against a very violent and brutal regime."
Denmark is one of Swaziland's main donors and the PUDEMO leader asked MPs to use their power to produce change in his country. "The very generous donations that you send out there are not used for the benefit of the people but a few corrupt elements within government," he warned.
"We therefore call upon you to use your influence in the European Union to exert political and economic pressure on the ruling elite in Swaziland. We call on you to apply targeted sanctions that will restrict the travel of the oppressive regime to your countries. We call on you to support the voice of the people of Swaziland in their call for democracy. Stop selling weapons to Swaziland," Mr Masuku told Western donors.
The PUDEMO leader said the award would "inspire us to be more focused and decisive." While the Swazi government recently had declared PUDEMO a "terrorist organisation," Mr Masuku said he was "happy that the world can not be fooled."
The Danish award has been met with silence or rejection in Swaziland, where media are under tight government control.
The 'Times of Swaziland' nevertheless managed to achieve a comment by Foreign Affairs Minister Lutfo Dlamini. "At face value it is unfortunate especially when one considers the strong ties we have with the Danish government. One would have expected them to inform us on the matter considering our relationship," the Minister told the newspaper.
Other government officials have rejected to comment on the award at large, referring to the fact that PUDEMO had been banned and as such did not exist.
In South Africa, on the other hand, the award given Mr Masuku has achieved much posivite attention, including by the government-close trade union COSATU, which sent a congratulation. South African focus has also been on Denmark's historic role in supporting the anti-apartheid fight and struggle for freedom at large.
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