Swazi King's Birthday Bash Infuriates Suffering Public

Ruler spends fortune to celebrate turning 40
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2008 5:29 AM CDT
Dancers perform in preparation for the party of Swaziland King Mswati III's birthday on the outskirts of Manzini, Swaziland.   (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
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(Newser) – Swaziland's king is throwing a lavish 40th birthday party for himself and the kingdom this weekend—and Swazis are seething over the extravagance, the New York Times reports. The day marking the double birthday has been dubbed the "40-40 Celebration." But critics of the monarchy point out there's little to celebrate with unemployment and the AIDS infection rate both runnning at 40% in the country—while life expectancy is just 32. 

The monarchy is still deeply respected in the African nation but lavish spending by the king and his 13 wives has sparked recent protests. "How can the king live in luxury while his people suffer?” asked one human rights activist. “How much money does he need, anyway?” A new stadium has been built for the celebrations and a fleet of sedans ordered to chauffeur VIP guests. Last week 60,000 virgins danced before the king in an annual ceremony, but he failed to choose a 14th wife.
(Read more Swaziland stories.)