US Engagement with Swaziland: What has Power, Ideology and Interest got to do with it?

  • Albert Domson-Lindsay


A lot has been said and written, particularly in the Swazi media, about Swaziland’s loss of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility and the social and economic implications of this. However, this article locates the loss within a broad context of the evolution of US engagement with Swaziland from the Cold War period to the present. It discusses this relationship through the lenses of ideology, power and interest. These concepts are familiar and useful in the study of inter-state relations. They offer important insights into the means by which states pursue their goals, the motives behind their preferences and choices, and the limits on their ambitions. Guided by these operative concepts, the article shows that geo-strategic considerations largely influenced US engagement with Swaziland in the Cold War days – it counted on the power resources of attraction and persuasion to garner Swaziland’s cooperation to contain revolutionary ideas and communism in Southern Africa. The article shows that de-listing of Swaziland from AGOA beneficiaries marks a turning point in post-Cold War US-Swaziland relations. It argues that the US, freed from the constraints of Cold War politics and the concomitant decline of Swaziland’s strategic value, is now deploying coercive instruments to promote political reforms in the country. However, the article contends that this use of structural power has its limits and it therefore recommends a re-think of US policy.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-641X
print ISSN: 0256-2804