Kingdom come: Southern Africa

King Mswati III
King Mswati III

Heads of state gather today for a 15-country summit of the Southern African Development Community, held, for the first time, in Swaziland’s capital Mbabane.

The region faces its worst drought in 35 years and a rising tide of political problems. Joseph Kabila, president of Democratic Republic of Congo, may seek to extend his rule beyond its constitutional end in December.

Zimbabwe is facing economic disaster while police are brutally stamping out fresh challenges to Robert Mugabe’s rule. Critics say King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, is unfit to chair the regional body. A third of his subjects need food hand-outs, but the despotic ruler has had other priorities, spending lavishly on vanity projects and private jets.

This week’s summit coincides with the Umhlanga festival in which tens of thousands of bare-breasted maidens dance at the royal village. Mswati, who already has 15 wives, may choose another.



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