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Swaziland: Overview

Since 1986 King Mswati III has reigned over Swaziland (pop. 1,091,000; GDP/cap US$2,433), a landlocked country bordered by Mozambique and South Africa. He succeeded his father, King Sobhuza II, who ruled for over 60 years, and suspended the constitution in 1973, and banned political parties. The Kingdom of Swaziland is thus one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies. Despite recent calls for democracy, change is unlikely, because the monarchy enjoys popular support.

Swaziland is highly dependent on South Africa. The Government is trying to attract investors, but has largely failed due to corruption, mismanagement, and resistance to change. There was a disastrous drought in 2002. The country has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world.

All land in the Kingdom is considered held in trust by the King for his people. Tenure is awarded to male citizens in the form of a lease obtained by pledging allegiance to one of the 350 palace-appointed chiefs (Swazi women cannot hold land on their own). Non-residents may only apply for a lease through land-holding corporations with Swazis as directors. But land leases are unclear and uncertainty exists as to the details of land ownership rights. Real estate transactions by foreigners must be approved by the government.

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