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Swazi kingdom says no to modernization

In a continent struggling to modernize, the tiny nation of Swaziland seems content to stay with its traditional ways. A quiet palace revolt that began earlier this year seems to have run its course. And the power of the monarchy has emerged victorious from the struggle, observers say.

Swaziland had been ruled for 61 years by King Sobhuza II, who passed on last August. The King had deftly balanced two seemingly contradictory goals during his reign: protection of traditional values and gradual modernization.

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The King's passing left a power vacuum, which some worried would invite meddling by outsiders. The country is sandwiched between white-ruled South Africa and Marxist Mozambique.

Over the past year, there has been a tussle for power between the ''traditionalists'' and the ''modernists,'' but it involved personalities almost as much as ideology. Observers say it appears the ''traditionalists'' are now in control.

The first sign of this was the ousting from power earlier this year of Prince Mandabala Dlamini, the mildly reformist prime minister. He was replaced by Prince Bhekimpi, considered more of a traditionalist.

The new prime minister and others then deposed Queen Regent Dzeliwe, the senior wife of the late King, who had assumed power after his passing.

The new queen regent is Princess Ntombi, one of the King's younger wives and mother of the new heir apparent, Prince Makhosetive. The prince is reportedly age 16, and according to custom, will not assume rule until he is 21.

Under a revised Constitution in 1978, opposition political parties were banned. The Swaziland parliament is effectively a debating chamber, with the King retaining the power to veto any proposed legislation.

Queen Regent Dzeliwe struggled in the King's absence to continue to strike a balance between modernization and tradition. But Swaziland analysts say she was ineffective. They say the traditionalists saw this as a major weakness and moved to replace her after they ousted the prime minister.

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