The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies. Its king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life. The power of the throne, however, has not gone unchallenged.
King Mswati III, on the throne since 1986, is upholding the tradition of his father, King Sobhuza II, who reigned for almost 61 years and had scores of wives
Swaziland Tourist Attractions
King Mswati III - on the throne since 1986 - rules by decree and says the country is not yet ready for multi-party politics
Thousands have lost their jobs as garment and sugar export industries have lost trading concessions
Swaziland has diplomatic ties with Taiwan rather than China
King Sobhuza scrapped the constitution in 1973 and banned political parties. King Mswati has shown no enthusiasm for sharing power, but banned opposition parties and trade unions have been vocal in their demands for greater democracy and limits on the Swaziland travel king's power.
With peaceful change in neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, Swaziland has been described as an island of dictatorship in a sea of democracy. Royalists have argued that democracy creates division, and that a monarch is a strong unifying force. St Helena
A long-awaited constitution, signed by the king in 2005 and introduced in 2006, cemented his rule. Swaziland is virtually homogenous, most of the population Swaziland attractions being of the same tribe. Economically, it relies on South Africa, which receives almost half of Swazi exports and supplies most of its imports.
Swaziland map (Please mouse click on the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement)
Many Swazis live in chronic poverty and food shortages are widespread. Aids is taking a heavy toll with more than 40% of the population believed infected with HIV. The virus has killed many workers and farmers and has created thousands of orphans. Life expectancy has plummeted.
Full name: The Kingdom of Swaziland
Population: 1.1 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 17,364 sq km (6,704 sq miles)
Major languages: Swazi, English (both official)
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy: 40 years (men), 39 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Lilangeni = 100 cents
Main exports: Sugar, wood pulp, minerals
GNI per capita: US $2,280 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .sz
International dialling code: +268