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The Kingdom of Swaziland is bordered by Mozambique to the northeast, and by the Republic of South Africa on all other sides. Swaziland is one of the smallest of the African countries, and its population is largely ethnic Swazis.

The area that is now Swaziland has been inhabited for thousands of years, perhaps as far back as 200,000 years. However, the current inhabitants of the land are the progeny of more recent arrivals. Around 500 AD, Nguni groups had made their way to the region during the Bantu migrations, and one of these groups settled in the area that is now Mozambique, founding the Dlamini Dynasty. In the mid-1700s, they moved southwest to what is now Swaziland, which became the center of Swazi culture.

The autonomy of Swaziland was threatened by British and Dutch rule over South Africa during the 1800s and early 1900s. Despite pressure from the neighboring Zulu people, increasing number of Europeans looking for land, traders, and missionaries, the Swazis held together, although their territory was greatly diminished as the British and the Boers competed for power and land.

In 1902, the Boers withdrew following the Anglo-Boer War, and the British took control of Swaziland as a protectorate. During British rule, much of the administration of Swaziland was carried out from South Africa until 1906, when Britain partitioned Swaziland into European and African areas, with the Europeans getting two-thirds of the land.

Under the leadership of King Sobhuza II, the Swazis were able to take advantage of the weakening power of the British Empire in the early 20th century, and to resist being incorporated into the Union of South Africa. They were able to regain much of their original territory, by purchase and through pressure on the British government. After sixty-six years of British rule, Swaziland achieved independence in 1968.

Swaziland's first constitution was largely a British creation, and it was suspended by the king in 1973. Four years later, all power was vested in the king. At the time of his death in 1982, King Sobhuza II was the world's longest-reigning monarch. Mswati III ascended to the throne in 1986 and, as of this writing, in December of 2017, he is still king.

The government of Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, with the king serving as head of state. By Swazi tradition, the king rules along with his mother, with the king acting as the administrative head of state, while the latter serves as the spiritual head of state. Traditionally, the king's mother held real power, and was capable of counterbalancing the authority of the king, but in recent years her role has become largely symbolic.

The king appoints the prime minister from among the members of the legislature, and also appoints a minority of the legislators to parliament. The Swaziland Senate is made up of thirty members, some of which are appointed by the king, while others are elected by the lower house. The House of Assembly has sixty-five seats, ten of which are appointed by the king, while the others are elected. Terms of office run for five years.

Swaziland's judicial system includes four regional magistrates, a high court, and a court of appeal. Judges are appointed by the king, and are generally expatriates from South Africa. As a separate system, national courts deal with minor offenses and violations of custom.

Swaziland's military is used during political protests, and for border security, but has never been involved in a foreign war.

Swaziland is administratively divided into four regional districts: Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini, and Shiselweni, each managed by a regional administrator. Local governments are divided into rural and urban councils. The urban councils serve much like municipalities, while rural governments may be compared to townships.

The official languages of Swaziland are Swati and English, with English as the official written language, and the language used in schools and business. Swati is the common language of conversation, although Zulu, Tsonga, and Afrikaans are also used.

The most common religion is Christianity, which claims 83% of the population, various Protestant denominations being the most common. Traditional religions are practiced by about 15% of the population, and Islam is practiced by about 2%.

The average life expectancy of a resident of Swaziland is just over fifty years. HIV/AIDS is a big problem, with Swaziland having the highest HIV infection rate in the world. Tuberculosis also claims lives, as many patients have a multi-drug resistant strain.

Primary schools are free but not compulsory. School enrollment rates are above 90%, although just over 80% reach the 5th grade. The country has more than eight hundred schools, at the primary, secondary and high school levels, and one public university, the University of Swaziland.

 

 

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