Africa News in Brief: Oct. 2 edition

| October 2, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Sithole is president of the Swaziland Democratic Party

Sithole is president of the Swaziland Democratic Party

Pro-democracy activist elected in Swaziland promises change

(GIN)—A pro-democracy activist is promising to bring change to Swaziland after winning a seat in Parliament where he will serve under King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Sithole, president of the Swaziland Democratic Party (Swadepa), becomes one of 55 independent MPs—one for each of the constituencies corresponding to the “tinkhundlas” or tribal communities. The King appoints two-thirds of parliament’s upper house as well as the prime minister.

In what some observers called a massive vote of no confidence, six of eight government ministers seeking reelection were defeated in the Sep. 20 poll as were 43 out of 55 independent members of Parliament.

In a further blow to the poll’s credibility, the African Union Election Observer Mission faulted the country’s practice of banning the participation of traditional political parties.

Newly-elected Sithole, 60, is a longtime labor activist who led the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions for 25 years, stepping down in 2009. A vocal critic of the current political setup, he vowed to change the government from the inside.

“The election procedure that prevails currently emphasizes… that you can only intervene as an individual, and we agreed as a party that we will use that… to advocate our beliefs,” Sithole said in a press interview.

Around 415,000 people—roughly a third of the population—registered to vote, but official turnout figures were unavailable.

Finally, despite exorbitant spending on the King’s polygamous lifestyle, and the near bankruptcy of the country in 2011, a new fiancée was announced for the youthful ruler. Beauty queen Sindiswa Dlamini, 18, was reportedly chosen at the traditional Reed Dance of bare-breasted virgins. Media reported her as the king’s 14th bride, although some counted her as wife number 15. The exact number is considered a state secret and considered ‘un-Swazi’ to discuss openly.

 

Obabiya Aishah Ajibola of Nigeria

Obabiya Aishah Ajibola of Nigeria

Nigerian beauty captures Muslim-only pageant crown

(GIN)—In a contest that highlights religious values and Islamic fashions, 21 year old Obabiya Aishah Ajibola of Nigeria was the tearful winner of the coveted prize.

The beauty pageant for Muslims took place in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, prior to the Miss World competition, which was relocated to Bali after protests by hardline Indonesian Muslim groups who found it offensive.

Twenty finalists were selected from 500 online applicants. They shared thoughts on the importance of motherhood, the dangers of the Internet, and the value of Islamic finance. They were vying for the “crown of modesty,” a golden statue of a woman giving thanks to God and an all expenses paid trip to Mecca.

The finalists hailed from Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Brunei.

When her name was announced, Ms. Ajibola dropped to her knees and recited a verse from the Koran. She was awarded $2,200 and trips to Mecca and India.

The pageant was started three years ago by Eka Shanti, a TV news presenter who lost her job for refusing to remove her headscarf.

“This is an international event to appreciate women who have talent, dedication, and a reputation in their communities for being young, but also giving back to others,” said Shanti.

The pageant is based around sholehah, she explained, an Islamic term meaning someone who is pious, has good morals, and observes Islamic rules and codes. She called it a “formula,” for understanding the ideal woman, “regardless of your religion.”

It is not intended as a challenge or in opposition to Miss World, she said, but as a way of rejecting negative stereotypes about Muslim women.

“People think we are against Miss World. What we’re against is nudity. For the sake of education, I want to give another example.”

 

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 25 print edition.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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