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Swazi King Picks Bride Number 12

September 11, 2003

MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) _ Swaziland’s King Mswati III selected his 12th bride on Thursday, less than a week after he picked bride No. 11 from thousands of young Swazi maidens, royal sources said.

Mswati’s 12th bride was identified as 18-year-old Nomonde Fihlawas, who was crowned the first princess in the Miss Swaziland 2003 pageant last month. In an interview at the time, she told a magazine she did not believe in polygamy.

Fihla was one of thousands of maidens who attended this year’s annual reed dance ceremony when the king, 35, picks a bride. In the traditional ceremony, the young women dressed in little more than beads and traditional skirts dance before the king to impress him.

Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch, has balked at recent pressure from his subjects to introduce democratic reforms. He has also been criticized for breaking his own ban on sexual relations with underage girls, taking one as a recent wife.

The families of some brides have even begun resisting him. Lindiwe Dlamini, the mother of wife number 10, last year asked the High Court to force the royal family to release her 18-year-old daughter from a royal guest house where the king was keeping her before the wedding.

Last November, Dlamini abandoned the lawsuit for now, saying she had little chance of winning.

The father of Noliqwa Ntentesa, bride number 11, also briefly sought legal protection for his 17-year-old daughter. Ntentesa’s father declined to challenge his daughter’s selection in court because he couldn’t afford it.

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