- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

Swazi trafficking

The ambassador from Swaziland said yesterday that the tiny southern African kingdom is victimized by smugglers who sell women into prostitution and children into forced labor.

Ambassador Ephraim M. Hlophe added that his government endorsed the anti-trafficking bill President Bush signed Jan. 10.

“Swaziland wants to work hand in hand with the United States and other countries in efforts to reduce human trafficking, not only in Africa, but on every continent,” he said.

“Swaziland is ready to work with the United States to harmonize our legislation, so that all efforts to fight human trafficking can be pursued with the same diligence and legal authority.”

He noted that prostitution exacerbates the spread of the deadly AIDS virus.

“This issue has particular poignancy for Swaziland because our country suffers from one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. Combating human trafficking and prostitution is a major element in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

International human rights organizations call Swaziland a source country for sex slaves and child labor in South Africa, which borders the landlocked nation on three sides. The nation of about 7,000 square miles with about 1.1 million subjects is the last absolute monarchy in Africa.

The State Department has criticized Swaziland over its human rights record and for granting too few legal rights to women and children.

“A women’s organization in South Africa estimated that 15 Swazi women per month were trafficked into South Africa for the purpose of ‘forced cohabitation’ often involving sexual abuse,” the department said in its latest human rights report.

Mr. Hlophe referred to a recent movie on the cable TV channel Lifetime called “Human Trafficking.”

“It was a tough, uncompromising drama about the brutal realities behind the international trafficking of women and children for sex,” the ambassador said.

He is the second ambassador from a nation with human-trafficking problems to endorse the U.S. legislation. Embassy Row reported yesterday that Ethiopian Ambassador Kassahun Ayele pledged his government’s efforts to fight the “scourge of human trafficking.”

Both ambassadors also praised the four Republicans who were the bill’s chief sponsors: Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas; and Reps. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey.

Ignoring Hamas

The U.S. and EU tactics of ignoring Hamas will put them in a weak position to deal with the terrorist group if it scores major victories in tomorrow’s Palestinian elections, according to the International Crisis Group.

“There is every reason for the West to withhold formal dealings at the national level, at least until Hamas renounces attacks against civilians and drops its opposition to a two-state solution,” the group said.

“But the current confused approach — boycotting Hamas while facilitating its electoral participation — makes no sense at all.”

The group urged the European Union to engage Hamas diplomatically if the group drops its call for the destruction of Israel and supports a Palestinian state that respects the boundaries of the Jewish nation.

The group urged the United States to “give serious considerations” to adopting its recommendations for Europe “if they prove effective.”

It said the U.S. and EU policies have had “several, essentially negative, results: estranging Palestinians from Western donors; losing touch with an increasingly large segment of the population; jeopardizing projects; and reducing accountability.

“Meanwhile, Hamas participates in elections without having to fulfill any prior conditions.”

Robert Malley, the group’s Middle East and North Africa program director, added, “The result is an emboldened movement that the West has precious little leverage over.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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