Pro-Democracy Protests Erupt in the Kingdom of Eswatini

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - JULY 2: King of Swaziland Mswati III arrives to Bole International Airport ahead of the 29th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 2, 2017.

Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Pro-Democracy Protests Erupt in the Kingdom of Eswatini

Amid intensifying pro-democracy protests and violence in eSwatini, King Mswati III has reportedly fled to South Africa.

The Kingdom of eSwatini is currently embroiled in intensifying pro-democracy protests. The protests, which began this past Monday, are calling for a new democratic government and have already resulted in various properties and shops set alight as well as escalating violence. There have been clashes between protesters and the local police with multiple arrests having taken place. Fearing for his safety, King Mswati III has reportedly fled to Johannesburg, South Africa.

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A local activist spoke to TimesLIVE anonymously and described the motivation for the current protests. "The situation is not good at all. What started as a peaceful petition has now turned into a violent protest and is intensifying all because of an absolute monarch who is controlling everything from parliament to the judiciary," they said. They went on to add that, "We live in a nation where almost 70% of the population live below the poverty line."

The Kingdom of eSwatini is perhaps one of the last absolute monarchies still existing in the world. As its citizens are confronted with rising unemployment and poverty, King Mswati III has continued to live and rule lavishly in spite of the dire socio-economic challenges facing his kingdom. In 2019, King Mswati III purchased 20 Rolls Royces which he reportedly gifted to his multiple wives, according to IOL. This is but one example of the opulence in which the monarch continues to bask.

The Communist Party of Swaziland, whose members have been participating in the protests, has criticised King Mswati III after their Deputy General Secretary, Mxolisi Ngcamphalala, was reportedly assaulted by the police. It is unclear, however, when the royal household will issue a statement in response to the ongoing events.

There is an observable stirring happening among eSwatini citizens. In May of this year, the youth took to the streets to demand justice for 25-year-old Thabani Nkomonye, a student at the University of eSwatini (UNESWA), who was believed to have died at the hands of police.