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Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF)

The Royal Swaziland Defense Force (Umbutfo) was created in 1973 after the king had secretly alerted the traditional regiments (armed with clubs and spears) to be prepared for military action if violence should occur as a result of the political crises surrounding the suspension of parliament. A relative of the king, Maphevu Dlamini who was the royal stock inspector, was made colonel-in chief despite his total lack of military experience. There was a widespread assumption that the army was created as a counterweight to the police, who were not entirely trusted by the traditionalists.

It is doubtful if even Maphevu, (who was appointed Prime Minister in 1976) deluded himself into thinking that the Umbutfo could play a meaningful role in any southern african upheaval. However, the army can be the instrument by which the roryal succession is assured. With approximately 1,500 men, was large enough to protect the royal family members and royal kraals in the event of disturbances, and to garrison key points around swaziland, especially those with large numbers of blue-collar workers.

The Royal Swaziland Police [RSP], which had an excellent reputation in the 29701, had undergone a significant decline in morale due, in part, to grievances over pay and working conditions. The police force is not entirely trusted by the traditional sector and the king has twice publicly alluded to unspecified "sinister motives" behind some police actions. RSP morale had also been damaged by police awareness of high-level corruption and their inability to do anything about it so long as the suspect had the backing of the king. Another factor may be the restrictions placed on police in handling liberation movement members found in Swaziland illegally carrying arms.

The mission of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) is to defend and protect the Kingdom of Swaziland, its national interests and values, provide support to the civil power in maintenance of law and order while contributing to regional and international peace and stability. The primary object of the USDF is to defend and protect the sovereignty and integrity and people of the Kingdom of Swaziland in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force.

Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force is responsible for external security but also has limited domestic security responsibilities, mainly patrolling the porous borders between South Africa and Mozambique. There are reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labor or civil society organization.

The USDF reports to the Minister of Defense, the King. The principal secretary of defense and the army commander are responsible for day-to-day USDF operations. The USDF is generally professional, despite inadequate resources and bureaucratic inefficiency, but is susceptible to political pressure, corruption, and occasional human rights abuses.

The Swaziland Defense Force (SDF) SDF was formed as a volunteer force in 1971. Initially its purpose was to offset the police and as a tool for the monarchy to wield power agairist. the populace should the need arise. After 30 months of training and a growing perception of an increased threat from the then new FRELIMO government in Mozambique, the Royal Swaziland Defense Force was formally established on 25 November 1975.

The mission of the Army is to protect the monarchy and citizens from unrest and terrorism, and [during the Apartheid period] to guard the borders to prevent infiltration by the African National Congress (ANC) and other dissidents. The Army has no military capabilities beyond its own borders; however, the force is capable of playing a key role in controlling any threat to the monarchy.

The force is responsible through the Minister of Defense to the King. The mission of the Ministry of Defence is to provide executive direction and common services to the USDF. The King is the Commander-in-Chief of the USDF and the substantive Minister of the Ministry of Defence. However, he delegates the responsibilities of the day-to-day activities of the executive arm of the government. There is a Defence Council, which is responsible for inter alia advising the King on all matters pertaining to the Defence Force.

As of 1990 the personnel strength was 2,600 men, with no Reserve. The Umbutfo SDF was organized into a 438-man Royal Guard unit; four regular infantry units called battalions; one training battalion; one mortar platoon; one parachute platoon; and an Air Wing. There were no current authorized strength tables. A platoon can consist of 20 to 50 men. Consequently battalion strengths and structures varied. The infantry battalions were all assigned to remote areas away from population centers and normally had half of their platoons on border duty and half in reserve (though most of the reserve group were generally on leave). Most training was conducted under the auspices of the British Army team in-country, but some training was conducted abroad in the UK, South Africa, and Kenya. The parachute platoon was trained at Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Major Equipment [as of 1990] included Assorted 7.62-mm rifles and machineguns (mainly FN); AR-18 5.56-mm rifles; machine pistols; six 8l-mm, fifteen 60-mm, and six 120-mm mortars; eighteen 84-mm Carl Gustav antitank weapons; four 105-mm pack howitzers (for ceremonial functions); and three Shorland armored cars. Transport included 3/4-ton Land Rovers and a variety of 4-ton and 7-ton West German cargo trucke.

In December 2008, the GKOS sought to purchase approximately 60 million USD worth of military equipment, including helicopters, vehicles, weapons, and ammunition from a British weapons manufacturer. The British government denied the request over end-use concerns. In documents requesting permission to purchase the equipment, SwazilandQs Ministry of Defense stated that the equipment was for use by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force (USDF) on United Nations peacekeeping deployment in Africa. It is unclear whether this was the intended purpose, or whether GKOS was attempting to build up domestic capability to deal with unrest, or was possibly acting as an intermediary for a third party.

The purchase application, signed by Ministry of Defense Principal Secretary John Kunene and Deputy USDF Major General Jeffrey Tshabalala, included requests for FN Herstal 7.6251mm Minimi light machine guns, blank and tracer ammunition, armored personnel carriers, command and control vehicles including one fitted with a 12.7x99mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun and others fitted with the FN Herstal light machine guns, military ambulances, armored repair and recovery vehicles, weapon sights, military image intensifier equipment, optical target surveillance equipment, 620 Heckler & Koch G36E assault rifles, 240 Heckler & Koch G36K assault rifles, 65 Heckler & Koch G36E rifles, 75 Heckler & Koch UMP submachine guns 9x19mm, and 35 Heckler & Koch USP semi-automatic pistols.

Since a September 2008 car bomb detonated less than three kilometers from the King's administrative capital, the USDF has been charged with patrolling bridges along the highway running between the capital city of Mbabane and the industrial center of Manzini.

Deployment of the USDF on border patrol duties has remained an essential activity in upholding territorial sovereignty, the control and combating of the violation of customs geography as well as containing cattle rustling and other trans-border crimes such as smuggling of cars and other goods. The success of the increased border patrols resulted in increased numbers of individuals who were caught at the border bringing goods into the country without declaring these. Hence the USDF has contributed significantly to government revenue.

The Ministry Demining Team concluded a verification exercise in a strip of land between Swaziland and Mozambique in 2010. In this regard, the Defence Force was assisted by the Implementation Support Unit of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (ISU-GICHD). With the completion of this exercise, the Ministry hopes to have a landmine-free Swaziland fulfilling its obligations under Article 5 and 19 of the charter and thereafter adopt legislation to implement the convention by 2007.

The opening of the new Ministry of Defence later in 2007 Headquarters ushered in a new era in the proper joint planning between the civilian division and the military establishment.

The Umbutfo Swazi Defense Force (USDF) has a close military-to-military partnership with the U.S., despite past criticism from neighboring South Africa of this relationship (i.e. Art. 98). A Status of Forces Agreement has been signed between the U.S. and the GKOS. Swaziland is pleased with the support it has received from DOD and AFRICOM through IMET and other programs. The GKOS supports the AFRICOM concept, and hosted a successful 2009 AFRICOM MEDFLAG exercise in August.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2017 19:11:14 ZULU