Eswatini pro-democracy unrest becomes a regional matter

A delegation meets the King to restore calm

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has been experiencing pro-democracy protests for several weeks. A delegation of South African countries will try to restore calm.

King Mswati III in 2011
King Mswati III answered to pro-democracy protests with violence | © Kollmeierf, 2011

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has been experiencing several weeks of pro-democracy unrest, which the Kingdom answered by shooting on the population.

On October 20, the Southern African Development Community, an inter-governmental organization seeking socio-economic cooperation and political security, will send a delegation to discuss security and political developments in the Kingdom. Eswatini, one of the 16 South African countries of the SADC, agreed to meet the delegation.

The SADC will send its executive secretary and senior officials of the secretariat. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, as a chairperson of the SADC, will send senior officials of the government and three former ministers. Representatives of Botswana and Namibia are also part of the delegation.

During that same day, one person died and at least 80 people were wounded by security forces in protests, which started in June against police brutality after the death of a 25-year-old law student.

Two members of parliament detained since July

October 20 is also the first day of the trial of two members of parliament, detained since July and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), which limits the rights of freedom of expression, and infringement of Covid-19-related rules.

Public transportation has been shut down last Sunday as the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union asked for the release of the two MPs. Earlier this month, protestors wanted to deliver a petition to the U.S. embassy asking them to intervene following the detention of the two lawmakers.

On October 21, the Kingdom asked telecom operators to suspend Facebook and Messenger access. The country has repeatedly limited Internet access in order to limit communications about the protests.

Some nurses are now reportedly considering not treating injured police officers because they shoot the population.

AFP reports that at least 29 people died this year in clashes between the police and protesters. Amnesty international says 80 people were killed by security forces since May, and 1,000 people arrested, including school children or students who participate in demonstrations.

Last Saturday, King Mswati III decided to close schools indefinitely.

Eswatini is a small country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique with no maritime access. King Mswati III is the last absolute monarch in Africa. He has been in power since 1986, from the age of 18, and has 15 wives, which are said to have a palace for each.

Read more about South Africa

Chair of SADC Organ appoints Special Envoys to engage with the Kingdom of Eswatini, South Africa Presidency, October 2021, Free access, UnsecureEswatini: Detained MPs must be immediately released and all charges against them dropped, October 2021, Amnesty International, Free accessNurses protest, to kick out all sickly police officers in various hospitals after deadly shooting, Swaziland news, October 2021, Free access, Unsecure

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