Category Archives for "Democracy"

BAHRAIN – News: Human Rights Activist “In High Spirits” Apparently – Can You Believe a Word They Say?



TIMELINE – 27th APRIL 2012 08.57 GMT:

According to a report in today’s Gulf Daily News, the main English language pro-government newspaper in Bahrain, they had been told by “sources” that Abdulhadi AlKhawaja was still at the Bahrain Defence Force hospital and was in “high spirits”

AlKhawaja in "High Spirits" After 79 days on Hunger Strike?

The report also claims that “he has never stopped receiving intravenous fluids, although nurses did say he tried to stop taking water two days ago” and that for the last 2 days he has been drinking the nutritional drink Ensure.

According to Google, “Ensure is a food supplement often recommended by nutritionists or dieticians to ‘ensure’ that patients are getting enough calories and vitamins when swallowing difficulties or arm weakness make eating whole foods difficult or no longer pleasurable”.

It is often used with sufferers of motor neurone disease who are no longer able to feed themselves normally.

The press source also went on to say that AlKhawaja “has lost at least 11kg to 12kg, but he is not skeletal. His muscle mass is still there, but his fat mass has definitely gone. His skin is very tight so it is difficult when searching for a vein for a needle, but for the last two days he has been taking the nutritional drink Ensure.

Reports that he has gone missing are not true – and I saw him coming out of the bathroom where he was in high spirits.”
You can read the full report HERE:

This report that AlKhawaja is “in good health” was compounded yesterday by a video interview by BBC’s Hardtalk programme with Bahrain’s Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa. He says that AlKhawaja is receiving “optimum health care”.

EDITOR: Whatever that is? If you can bear to watch this grinning, smirking  idiot, the video report is HERE:

AlKhawaja Remains Defiant - Courtesy of @CarlosLatuff


So after 79 days on a hunger strike then, AlKhawaja is “fine” the Bahraini Government would like us to believe.

That he is apparently still alive is a relief but why they refuse to allow anyone to see or talk with him is highly suspicious.  

The claim is that the “doctors” have said that visits and phone calls must stop.

Why? Just another collective punishment on his family and followers it seems to me – and once again a demonstration of the Al-Khalifa’s complete lack of humanity.

AlKhawaja’s appeal against his conviction comes to court again on Monday 30th April.  But don’t get your hopes up. On their past track record the Bahrain justice system will make it as difficult and awkward as possible, probably postponing the decision yet again.


Meanwhile the ridiculous monarchy in Bahrain play out their games with the King sending a “cable” to the Prime Minister, thanking him for his “cable” thanking him for the “success” of  (the half full stands at) the F1 Grand Prix weekend.

(EDITOR: Someone should tell them about those new invention, emails and the telephone!).

There is also much made on the official Bahrain News Agency website of visits by the Prime Minister, and a string of other officials, to the bedsides of injured police officers and also to a mother and son injured in a gas cylinder explosion that severely damaged their home and showered them with glass.

Speaking to the police officers, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the antique Prime Minister, said, “To say “thank you” is not enough. We need to show love and respect to the security officers and translate that into deeds”.

“The Prime Minister lauded popular stances in support of the security officers which, he said, emanate from the Bahraini inherent humane characteristics”, says the report.

“He stressed rejection of all forms of intimidation and terrorization of citizens, asserting that Bahrain will always remain and oasis of security and stability under the wise leadership of His Majesty the King”.

(EDITOR: If you can face reading the full report without reaching for the sick bag, it is HERE:

Strange that we never noticed members of the Government visiting the families of those whose loved ones have died from police brutality or mysteriously in the Al-Khalifa prisons. I must have just missed the reports that day!



TIMELINE – 26th APRIL 2012 10.15 GMT:

Today, Thursday, would be the 78th day of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja’s “Freedom or Death” hunger strike – if he is still alive.  75 days is normally the limit for surviving without sustenance and AlKhawaja told his family he would even stop drinking water last Sunday.

Where is AlKhawaja?

The Al-Khalifa Government currently has a news blackout on information around AlKhawaja and his family, his lawyer and the Danish Ambassador have all been prevented this week from speaking with him or making visits.

AlKhawaja’s wife says that she phoned the Bahrain Defence Force medical ward where he was being held on Wednesday after he failed to make his regular Tuesday call to her. A nurse is reported to have told her that his room and bed were empty.

Until a few days ago the Ministry of Interior was saying that he is still “in good health” but activists have reported a large increase in police checkpoints around Bahrain in the last 24 hours, which may indicate that some announcement to the contrary is imminent.

There also seems to have been an escalation in night time police raids on houses in the Shia villages and random arrests to “neutralise” those most likely to demonstrate. The village of Duraz was particularly targeted after an explosion there on Tuesday night injured 4 policemen following a fire inside a shop.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN General Secretary, the US State Department and the EU have all once again this week called on the Bahraini Government to  use “every available option” to find resolution over the AlKhawaja case.  It may be too late or he is in a coma.


Zanaib AlKhawaja Protesting in the Road -

Zainab AlKhawaja, his daughter, who was arrested last weekend for staging a protest sit-in in the middle of the road in the Financial Harbour district, has been remanded in custody for another 7 days.

Her sister, Maryam AlKhawaja, who acts as international spokeswoman for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, yesterday addressed the EU Parliament in clear, forthright terms about the poor state of human rights, not just in Bahrain, but throughout the Gulf. 

You can hear hear her articulate testimony in this video report, HERE:

In response to requests to the Ministry of Interior for information about AlKhawaja by the media, the Ministry merely says that people should “watch its Twitter feed”. There was no relevant information from that source yesterday.

In the meantime, we can only wait and hope that somehow AlKhawaja is still alive. 

EDITOR: For the Ministry of Interior to deny his family information and access is beyond cruel – but then little surprises me from this lying and despicable regime.


The Last Absolute Monarch in Africa l Royal Wedding Afterthoughts

Peter Clifford


– 6/5/11 Peter Clifford –


While pro-democracy demonstrations and battles continue around the world, notably in Syria, Yemen and Libya at the current time, protests in a small country in southern Africa against suppression and autocratic rule seem to have gone largely unnoticed.

King Mswati in Traditional Dress - BBC

Swaziland is a tiny kingdom, just 6,704 square miles in area and with a population of 1.2 million, surrounded by South Africa on three sides and with a northern eastern border against Mozambique.

Swaziland - BBC

While South Africa and Mozambique (both of which I have visited several times) have had their problems, and still have some, noticeably corruption, their elections are generally considered free and fair.

In Swaziland, all power ultimately lies in the hands of King Mswati lll who rules by royal degree and says his county “is not yet ready for multi-party politics”.

Quite why he says this becomes clear when you discover that he lives a very privileged lifestyle in royal palaces with 14 wives (yes, 14, that is not a misprint!), twenty children and a fleet of expensive cars. He did back down however when there were protests about him buying a private jet.

How considerate! – while meanwhile 40% of his population are unemployed, more than 25% are HIV positive (the highest rate in the world), 63% earn less than $1.25 a day and 80% less than $2 (USAID 2010).

Life expectancy is just 50 years for men and only 48 years for women according to the UN (appalling when compared with over 77 years for men and over 80 years for women in the UK).


King Mswati lll

The King’s net wealth is estimated at $100 million and he has trusteeship of a $10 billion dollar fund. The extreme wealth therefore of just one person skews the Gross National Income per capita to an average of $2,470 per person.

As a result, the World Bank classifies Swaziland as “lower middle income”, thereby disqualifying it from a whole host of useful foreign aid partnership programmes and denying the poorest in its society the urgent help that they need.

During the recent world economic crisis Swaziland’s economy has more or less collapsed and what aid there is has been withheld because of concerns about corruption.

Just to add to the obscenity of this situation, King Mswati recently attended the Royal Wedding celebrations of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London, reputedly staying for several days at one of the luxury hotels, either Claridges or The Dorchester, with an entourage of 50 at a minimum double room rate of £450 a night (does he book 14 doubles, one for each wife, I wonder?).

And far from being sympathetic to the problems of his population, in a debate in Parliament in 2000 he said HIV positive people should be “sterilised and branded”.

HIV orphans in Swaziland - BBC

More recently, earlier this year, the Swazi government cut the salaries of its civil servants by 10% while approving an increase in the annual allowance for the King from $24 million to $30 million.

Mswati also manages to control the press and suppresses anything he doesn’t like. When a photograph of his new $500,000 car appeared in the media, he promptly banned all photography of royal vehicles.

Similarly, when he was cuckolded by his Justice Minister, a former friend (it must be so hard keeping track of 14 wives!), he placed his 22 year old wife under house arrest and prevented the newspapers from carrying the story (though the nearby South African media follows everything with great interest and in this particular case unrestrained glee).

This madness, sadly real, reminds me of a Terry Jones fairy story for children called “Touch The Moon”. The king in the story becomes totally obsessed with building a tower so high that if he stands on tiptoe he can touch the moon.

(Recommended: UK Bookstore “Fantastic Stories” by Terry Jones – USA Bookstore “Fantastic Stories”– for adults and children everywhere with a sense of fun and wonder! Illustrated by Michael Foreman)

In the process of trying to achieve this mad desire the king demolishes half his capital city to make way for the tower, digs up the rest of the kingdom to quarry stone for it, impoverishes his people and almost kills his daughter, before he realises what a fool he has been.

While King Mswati may not be a bad person in himself, at the age of 43 and having been educated at Sherbourne School in Dorset in the UK, you would think he would have more sense than to endlessly squander his wealth in the faces of his impoverished people.

King Mswati's Eco Car


Presumably he is surrounded by a cluster of sycophantic ministers who, busy feathering their own nests, are not going to bring him into the real world and tell him the truth. He should be intelligent enough to know that the more you suppress people, the more you will build resistance.

No wonder then that for a country with such good exportable natural resources (coal, asbestos, sugar, wood pulp and crushed stone for roads) yet such high unemployment and 38% of the population under 14 years of age, the King’s heavy handed autocratic rule is at last being challenged.

The Call For Democracy

On 12th April 2011, following strikes by trade unions in previous years which have gone unheeded, demonstrations erupted in Manzini, the commercial capital. Over 1,000 peaceful protesters, including many teachers, were subjected to water cannon and tear gas grenades.

The demonstration was timed to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the banning of all political parties by Mswati’s father, King Sobhuza II, and none have been allowed since.  A number of opposition figures and students were arrested and mobile phones impounded by the police.

Protesters In Swaziland

Since then things appear to have quietened down, but that is only on the surface as there has been virtually no response from the Government or King and certainly no indication of any inclination to change.

This will, of course, only add fuel to the fire, until finally this parasitic monarchy and government are swept away.  A wiser monarch would invest in a free democratic system and remove himself from political control now.  We won’t hold our breath!

I will leave the last word to Nelson Mandela: “Many of our traditional leaders are also not aware of the lessons of history.  They do not seem to know that there were once absolute monarchs in the world who did not share power with their subjects  ……… Had these monarchs clung stubbornly to their absolute powers they would long have disappeared from the scene.” Nelson Mandela “Conversations With Myself” (UK BOOKSTORE -“Conversations With Myself” – USA BOOKSTORE)

11/5/2011 NEWS UPDATE: Swaziland’s Finance Minister, Majozi Sithole, said on the radio today that Swaziland may not be able to pay its civil servants in June ………. I sense trouble ahead, especially as civil servants were in the vanguard of the demonstrations last month!



Like millions of others around the world I watched the Royal Wedding in London on TV recently and enjoyed it – a great spectacle which UK Plc does very well.


The Royal Couple -

And while I wish the “royal couple” (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) a  long and happy relationship – they look like a very nice pair together – I do have to wonder just what this “royal” thing is all about?

What does it mean to be “royal”?  What it means in fact is that some people get to be born into the right family, at the right time and, if they are lucky in their timing, into a long  life of privilege, power, wealth and luxury.  (I admit  one or two have literally  lost their heads along the way, so it isn’t always a good deal!)

Apart from that, “being royal” doesn’t mean anything.  It is all a grand illusion that the majority of us buy into and go along with.

While I would concede that a constitutional monarchy where the Head of State is completely separate from the politics of the day is extremely useful, other than that these people are exactly the same as the rest of us when it comes down to it – just the same but with posher accents!  Though I am sure the majority of them would like to think otherwise.

And talking of the Royal Wedding, why was it that playboy despots like King Mswati (above) and the Libyan Ambassador ( the invitation later rescinded after protests) were invited while two former UK Prime Ministers, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and their partners were excluded?

This exclusion of two people who have held the highest political office in the country struck me as rude, banal, unfair and stupid and smacks of the “ruling elite”  (in their delusions of self importance) punishing those who may have offended them along the way.

Similarly, Sarah Ferguson was denied an invitation and had to watch her daughters attend with her former husband, the Duke of York on TV. How petty it all is!

Until the next time,


Peter Clifford:


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