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Swaziland

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Swaziland is a very small country in southern Africa, situated between Mozambique and South Africa. The country is slightly smaller than New Jersey and has a population of 1.1 million.

Swaziland’s terrain comprises mostly mountains and hills, with some moderately sloping plains as well. Its climate ranges from tropical to near temperate. Swaziland’s natural resources include asbestos, coal, clay, cassiterite, timber, small gold and diamond deposits, quarry stone, and talc.

The country is populated primarily by ethnic Swazis, while a small number of Zulu and White Africans of either British or Afrikaner descent make up a minority. Forty percent of Swazi profess the Zionist religion, which is a blend of Christianity and indigenous beliefs. Roman Catholicism, Islam, and other faiths are followed by the rest of the population. Swaziland’s official languages are English and siSwati.

The Swazi people trace their roots back to the Bantu, who migrated from Central Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Anglo-Boer War led Swaziland to become a protectorate under Britain’s direct control. In 1968 the nation gained its independence. Politically, Swaziland was a monarchy. It was not until large student and labor protests in the 1990s that King Mswati III allowed political reform and a greater degree of democracy. A constitution was drafted in 2006, but political parties remain banned. Talks over additional constitutional reforms between progressive groups and the government broke down in 2007.

Undoubtedly the largest challenge to Swaziland today is HIV/AIDS. More than 26 percent of Swaziland’s adult population is living with the disease, the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. Drought, overgrazing, and soil depletion are all significant environmental problems that face the country. Swaziland is also extremely poor. Sixty-nine percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 40 percent of the labor force is unemployed. Around 63 percent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day.