Swaziland - Introduction
Swaziland was officially renamed the Kingdom of eSwatini, which translates as 'land of the Swazis' in the Swazi language. Speaking at 50th-anniversary independence celebrations, King Mswati III said 20 April 2018: "I would like to announce that Swaziland will now revert to its original name.... African countries – on getting independence – reverted to their ancient names before they were colonized, so from now on the country will officially be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini."
Unlike many African countries winning independence from European colonizers, Swaziland chose not to change its name back to one in the country's own language, maintaining instead the name imposed by the British for half a century. The King had referred to his nation as eSwatini during speeches and official events in recent years. The official name change likely meant the constitution will be formally rewritten, while public institutions will also be given new titles. The nation formerly known as Swaziland achieved its independence in 1968 and remains Africa's only absolute monarchy: Mswati was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18.
Swaziland, a small, predominantly rural, landlocked country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, suffers from severe poverty and the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. Although Swaziland is no longer an absolute monarchy, the transition to constitutional government is far from complete. Swaziland is a politically stable country with significant democracy and governance shortfalls, and a divided civic community challenging the government's lack of response to these deficits. It has a deeply traditional society with large economic disparities between the developed urban areas connected by well-paved roads on one hand, and rural areas suffering from severe water shortages and deep poverty on the other.
Swaziland has surpassed Botswana as the country with the world's highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. An estimated 40 percent of pregnant women are infected, and AIDS is the leading cause of death among children under 5 years old. A report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2002 found that young women have higher HIV prevalence rates than men in the same age group. The implication from this finding suggests that increasingly younger women are having sex with older men, resulting in a possible inter-generational driver of the infection from men to women. This UNAIDS finding is true for Swaziland as, according to the 2002 sentinel survey, 87% of women below the age of 30 formed the majority of those infected with HIV. This implies that nine out of ten women in this age group were infected with HIV.
HIV/AIDS has become the major cause of death in the country, obliterating thousands of lives, particularly the young and economically productive members of the Swazi population, thereby undermining the country’s social and economic security.
With Swaziland’s rich culture and strong traditions, this is a wonderful country to partake in some fascinating cultural activities. The monarchy and the people of Swaziland actively maintain and preserve a remarkable cultural heritage, allowing visitors to get a better idea of traditional African culture here than pretty much anywhere else in the region. What is seen, including spectacular festivals, has not simply been resuscitated for the tourist dollar but is the real deal.
If there is one thing that Swaziland is known for around the world it is the magnificent traditional festivals that the country hosts- particularly the Umhlanga (Reed Dance) and Incwala ceremonies. Both are living cultural events that, bar the odd wristwatch and mobile phone, have hardly changed in two hundred years.
Visitors are allowed to watch, but neither ceremony makes any concession to tourism; even the precise dates are not published in advance, being dependent on the vagaries of ancestral astrology. The main events happen at the royal parade grounds at Ludzidzini but the mood of celebration sweeps the nation, and visitros to the country around the time of the events will doubtless see wandering bands of warriors or maidens decked out in full regalia as they head to or from the festivities.
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