MBABANE, Swaziland – Two leading activists in Swaziland were briefly detained Wednesday during a pro-democracy march in the capital of sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy, while supporters said a third leader also has been released.
Police plucked the president of the Swaziland Youth Congress, Wandile Dludlu, and unionist Wonder Mkhonza, from among 350 marchers. Both were released after several hours in police custody.
Police spokesman Wendy Hleta said the two activists were questioned and released without being charged. She said Mkhonza was arrested because he had tried to obstruct the police when they were arresting Dludlu.
Skhumbuzo Phakathi, the deputy president of the Peoples United Democratic Movement, also has been released from police detention after being arrested on Monday, supporters in neighboring South Africa said Wednesday.
This week's protests in Swaziland are timed to mark Monday's anniversary of independence from Britain 42 years ago. On Tuesday, about 250 democracy activists marched through the nearby commercial capital of Manzini amid a heavy police presence.
Swazi King Mswati III is accused of repressing human rights, and harassing and jailing pro-democracy activists in this tiny kingdom wedged between South Africa and Mozambique. Political parties and meetings are banned, and the National Assembly that is subservient to the king.
In its latest assessment of human rights in Swaziland, the U.S. State Department singled out the terror laws, saying they were being used "to silence dissent and ban certain political organizations." Pro-democracy activists also say a monarchy is ill-equipped to combat the poverty and AIDS that trouble the kingdom.
In Johannesburg, a group of about 20 activists from the Swaziland Democracy Campaign demonstrated outside the Swazi consulate. They invited consulate head of mission, Skayoyo Magongo, and other officials to listen to their statements, and Magongo agreed to take their concerns to the Swaziland authorities.
"We are offering humanitarian and solidarity to the people of Swaziland. These demands were not superimposed from elsewhere, these are organic demands from the ground in Swaziland," said the group's spokesman Stephen Faulkner.
Faulkner was among several South African trade unionists detained in Swaziland this week and later deported home to South Africa.
Associated Press Writer Eric Naki in Johannesburg contributed to this report.