Sunday, September 07, 2008

Your tax dollars supported this party!


Swaziland turned 40 on Saturday, as did its monarch, so in true Jose Canseco form King Mswati III held the aptly named "40-40" party. No word on whether King Cobra was involved. Nonetheless, the party is a microcosm for the larger failings of the majority of the rulers in Africa.

The cost of the party was announced at $2.5 million, though believed to stretch beyond $10 million. GDP per capita was estimated in 2007 to be at $4,800. Nearly 26% of Swaziland's residents between 15 and 49 have HIV or AIDS. One in four people in Swaziland live to be 40.

Robert "Democracy" Mugabe attended the event as well; Swazilanders feel he's stood up to the West and, as such, received the largest cheer of the day.

We does the development community think of such a regime? The DAC has funneled over $500 million to Mswati since he his reign began, $120 million from the U.S. alone. Chris Coyne and I have a paper (pdf) looking at the phenonmenon of aid flowing to the worst of the worst, its title works well to describe the Swaziland scenario-- "With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?"

King Mswati III comes in at #14 on the Parade's World's Worst Dictators list.

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We shouldn’t let these lavish celebrations hide the very real human rights abuses that are taking place in Swaziland. The King rules by decree, political parties are banned and the parliament has no powers. The King selects the Prime Minister. This week police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at marchers protesting for democracy. While the King has a wealth estimated at 200 million US dollars, seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than one US dollar a day. Six in ten people rely on international food aid and four in ten are said to be moving from hunger to starvation. Swaziland also has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. For more information on human rights issues in Swaziland visit my blog at www.swazimedia.blogspot.com

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