Mswati wants more debate on new constitution

Mbabane, Swaziland - King Mswati III of Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarchy, has sent a new constitution back to parliament for further debate after raising objections, a member of parliament said on Monday.

Mswati has asked lawmakers to reconsider a clause stating that Christianity is the only recognised religion in Swaziland and a second provision stating that members of parliament will continue to receive pay even if the legislature is dissolved.

"There are two clauses that have been sent back to us," said lawmaker Henry Dlamini, telling reporters "we are looking at finishing with this soon".

Parliament three weeks ago adopted a long-awaited constitution that preserves a ban on political parties and Mswati's sweeping powers to dissolve the legislature, fire the cabinet, dismiss and appoint judges, and act as head of the police, the correctional services and the army.

Mswati met with lawmakers and church leaders on Thursday to discuss the clauses and decided to return the draft constitution that has been in the making since 1996 for further debate.

The king must sign the bill for it to become law.

Mswati, 37, who ascended to the throne at the age of 18, has been criticised for his lavish lifestyle and refusal to open up the kingdom to democratic reforms.

The opposition said that Mswati did not attend an African Union summit in Libya on Monday, sending his prime minister instead, after learning that Swaziland would be singled out for criticism.

Swaziland has one of the world's highest HIV and Aids infection rates and more than 65 percent of the 1,2-million inhabitants live on less than one dollar a day.