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Swaziland, which is about 85% the size of New Jersey, is surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique. The country is largely mountainous.

Absolute monarchy.

Bantu peoples migrated southwest to the area of Mozambique in the 16th century. A number of clans broke away from the main body in the 18th century and settled in Swaziland. In the 19th century these clans organized as a tribe, partly because they were in constant conflict with the Zulu. Their ruler, Mswazi, appealed to the British in the 1840s for help against the Zulu. The British and the Transvaal governments guaranteed the independence of Swaziland in 1881.

South Africa held Swaziland as a protectorate from 1894 to 1899, but after the Boer War, in 1902, Swaziland was transferred to British administration. The paramount chief was recognized as the native authority in 1941. In 1963, the territory was constituted a protectorate, and on Sept. 6, 1968, it became the independent nation of Swaziland.

Since 1986, King Mswati III has ruled as sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned and the king appoints 10 of the 65 members of parliament as well as the prime minister. King Mswati can veto any law passed by the legislature and frequently rules by decree.

In 2002, hundreds of thousands of Swazis faced starvation. Two years of drought as well as bad planning and poor agricultural practices were blamed for the crisis. The government came under criticism for buying the king a $50-million luxury jet—a quarter of the national budget—while famine loomed. In 2002, the countrys judges resigned en masse in protest of the governments refusal to comply with court decisions. In April 2003, the government information minister announced that the media were banned from making negative remarks about the government—criticism of the kings new luxury jet in particular would not be tolerated. In 2004, a third year of drought befell the country. International donor agencies and human rights groups condemned the kings plans to build new

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