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Govt vows to bring weekend bombers to justice

[Swaziland] Downtown Mbabane with the Central Bank Building in centre, dominating the skyline.

Investigations into a series of fire bombings in Swaziland at the weekend continued on Tuesday as authorities vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The police have intimated that the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a coalition of banned opposition parties may be behind the incidents. PUDEMO has denied any involvement.

On Friday night, the Swazi National Court building in the capital was petrol bombed. Three hours earlier, a petrol bomb exploded at the home of government spokesman, Percy Simelane, in an Mbabane township called Checkers. There were no reported injuries.

A primary school at Lobamba, 15 km east of Mbabane, attended by the children of some royal family members, was firebombed on Saturday.

A note found by police at the National Court read, "PUDEMO wants a constitution representing the majority, not the minority."

King Mswati III last month signed into law a new constitution that continued a ban on organised political opposition. The constitution goes into effect in 2006, despite objections from civil society and labour unions.

Lieutenant Sabelo Dlamini, spokesman for the Royal Swaziland Police Force, told the Swazi media, "With the note that was found at the scene of the bombing and with the organisation's name engraved on it, we think they are the ones who should claim responsibility for the bombings."

PUDEMO president Mario Masuku told IRIN that the organisation was not behind the bombings.

"This is cheap propaganda. Anyone could have planted a handwritten note at the scene. I say let the police do their job, but a witch hunt would do no one any good," he said.

Masuku was tried in 2003 for sedition for allegedly calling for the overthrow of government at a banned political march in Mbabane. He was later acquitted.

"Nothing will remain secret. These [perpetrators] will one day be caught," said Prime Minister Dlamini of this weekend's bombings.

To date, however, no one has been charged with the 1998 bombing of the deputy Prime Minister's office in Mbabane, which claimed the life of a government worker, or subsequent fire bombings whose targets included the Houses of Parliament and government rural administration centres.

"Rather than talk about the bombing, we should talk about why there are dissenting voices out there," Masuku said.

Masuku said advocates of democracy in Swaziland did not believe in violent protest, but stressed that his organisation agreed with the sentiment of the note found at the charred National Court office.

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