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Southern African nations deploy envoys to Eswatini as unrest escalates

Demonstrators are demanding democratic reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy

Hassan Isilow   | 21.10.2021
Southern African nations deploy envoys to Eswatini as unrest escalates


Southern African nations announced on Thursday they are sending high profile envoys to Eswatini, Africa's last absolute monarchy, to engage with King Mswati III over violent protests in the country.

Protests have been ongoing for weeks in parts of the tiny Southern African nation, formerly known as Swaziland.

Media reports claim dozens have been injured in clashes with security forces and one person has been killed.

Demonstrators have been barricading roads, and looting shops as they demand for political reforms, including lifting of the ban on political parties, freedom of expression and end to the King Mswati's rule.

They also want two leading legislators, who were arrested in July for being in the forefront of the calls for reform, to be freed.

As chair of the organ on Politics and security Cooperation for the 16 Southern African nations (SADC), South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the envoys on Thursday.

According to a statement, the high-level delegation includes former South African Cabinet ministers, a presidential advisor on international relations, deputy minister of international relations and cooperation as well as representatives of Botswana and Namibia.

The envoys will be accompanied by Elias Magosi, the executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the regional body. They will meet with Mswati this week, according to a Ramaphosa office statement.

On Wednesday evening, the government in Eswatini restricted access to social media sites, locals said.

"I have been using VPN to access some sites, but the internet is slow," a reporter in the Mbabane city told Anadolu Agency.

Efforts to get a comment from the government spokespeople were unsuccessful as their phones went unanswered.

Protesters wounded

In the townships of Mbabane and Msunduza, police have shot and wounded several protesters.

Sikelela Dlamini, head of Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), said: "Police are shooting protesters, but the comrades remain firm and resolute. Now we are going to hospital to check on them (wounded protesters)," he said.

Meanwhile, two major dailies, Times of Eswatini and Eswatini Observer, could not publish their Thursday’s edition as police asked their management to evacuate staff from building premises, saying they could be targeted by the angry protesters.

A high school was also set on fire in the Msunduza township.

Many roads in the Mbabane city were blocked by burning tires and a thick black cloud of smoke was hovering over the city. Shops were closed and the presence of heavy armed police was visible.

Demonstrators, who are mostly youth, claim that the current royal political systems in Eswatini has failed to meet the needs of poor citizens and instead only enriches the king and his family.

The 53-year-old king came to throne three decades ago. He is accused of leading a lavish lifestyle and treating opponents harshly. But the kingdom denies the claims.

“We would like to appeal to all Swazis to discourage this behavior and reiterate that there is no room for such anarchy in our society,” he said, referring to the ongoing protests.

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