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Obama gives SD 90 days

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By MABANDLA BHEMBE - TIMES OF SWAZILAND -21-Jun-2009

MBABANE –Swaziland forms part of the six African countries that have been blacklisted by the United States of America (USA) as worst offenders in human trafficking.

Owing to this, President Barack Obama’s government has given the country a 90 day ultimatum to put its house in order or face severe sanctions. Accor-ding to the US State De-partment’s annual report, the other African countries that have been recently included on the same human trafficking blacklist as Swaziland are Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Niger, Chad and Mauritania.

Minimum Inclusion on the list means these countries’ governments are not fully complying with minimum standards set by US laws for cooperating in efforts to reduce the rise of human trafficking. Human trafficking involves trading in human beings who are smuggled out of a country and subjected to torture, hard labour and forced sexual intercourse (sex slave).

Swaziland, including the other five countries on the list, now risks sanctions including suspension of US non-humanitarian aid. According to the US State Department’s annual report, if a country appears on the list for two consecutive years, it can be subjected to further US sanctions. The addition of the six African countries was due largely to a relaxation in efforts to fight domestic slavery, which has allegedly persisted, according to the US.

These countries were added to the list in the annual report, which analysed efforts in 173 countries to fight trafficking in humans for forced labour, prostitution, military service and other reasons.

Crisis The State Department’s annual report, the first to be released since President Barack Obama took office, also states that the global economic crisis is also boosting the demand side of human trafficking. The report further states that 17 nations, up from 14 in 2008, are now subject to the trafficking sanctions, which can include a ban on non-humanitarian and trade-related aid and US opposition to loans and credits from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The penalties can be waived if President Obama determines it is in the US’ national interest to do so. In an interview with the Swazi News this week, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Lutfo Dlamini confirmed the 90 day ultimatum.

“Indeed we received the US report and we were expecting such correspondence,” said Dlamini. “I am pleased to confirm that we will meet the deadline that has been set by the US. Our inclusion into the list has been for two main reasons which are that the country is not putting much effort to curb these illegal practices and that there is no law that has been passed on human trafficking,” explained Dlamini. Independent investigations revealed that the country also finds itself in this situation because of being used by these human trafficking perpetrators as a by-pass country.

Disturbing To this the minister said: “The ministry has also had an experience of people coming to seek help to return to their respective countries after having been trafficked into Swaziland for a number of reasons, including jobs.” Dlamini lamented that the listing of the country under this category was disturbing.

“We cannot afford to be listed as a human trafficking state because it is a serious offence globally. It is for this reason that we have acted swiftly to avoid jeop-ardising our good relationship with the Americans, which has been going on for years,” he said.

Countries that have managed to cope with the US law and have since been removed from the list include Qatar, Oman, Algeria, and Moldova.


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