Swaziland, the only African country with an absolute monarch, is gearing up for its big 40-40 party this weekend, celebrating the 40th birthday of its King Mswati III, and 40 years since its independence from Britain. In preparation, the national stadium received a makeover so it can properly host military bands, traditional singers and dancers, a royal garden party, and state banquet for the likes of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.
Yet many subjects don't get a sense of jubilation from the number 40 — 40 percent of Swaziland's adult population has HIV, and the unemployment rate is 40 percent. One number that doesn't quite reach 40 is life expectancy —thanks to AIDS the average person in Swaziland will live to 31-years-old.
Ten thousand protesters gathered earlier this week in Manzini, Swaziland, to protest the use of public funds for the duel celebration of 40 years of independence and the king's 40th birthday, and demand multi-party elections in 2008, and increased availability of drugs. Hopefully things will improve for Swaziland over the next 40 years.