Africa's last absolute monarchy is being challenged by pro-democracy protests and an army of youths ready to fight back.
Pro-democracy protests in Southern African country Eswatini (previously Swaziland) have intensified as police and army forces meet unarmed protesters with tear gas and water cannons. National anger and dissatisfaction with King Mswati III are not revolutionary and have been building up for years. Advocates say that the 53-year-old ruler has consistently ignored cries for reform and a move towards a democratic political system. Protests have been going on since June, however, the violence has increased in recent weeks.
For years, King Mswati has boasted a lavish life filled with private planes, expensive vacations, and designer clothing. He has ruled over Eswatini since 1986. King Mswati has denied the accusations of autocratic rule and of using public money to fund his lifestyle for years. In July, he called protests against his ruling "satanic" and bemoaned that the protests have taken the country backward.
This year's protests were sparked by Eswatini students, who wanted better learning conditions, free education, as well as a demand for political reform. The army was sent to "intimidate, but that has not deterred the students," Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for the pro-democracy Swaziland Solidarity Network, told the AFP news agency. On Saturday, the government shut down its schools "indefinitely with immediate effect" as the country faces a wave of protests. At least 28 people have been killed with countless arrests having been made throughout the weeks.
The King owns shares in all of the country's telecoms Eswatini shut the internet down for 2 hours over the weekend, and MTN Eswatini and other mobile network operators revealed that they have been told to suspend access to Facebook and its messenger app until further notice. "The business has implemented the directive and access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger has been suspended. ... We will continue engaging with the relevant stakeholders to minimize the impact and duration of the service disruption," MTN Eswatini said in a statement. They did not say why it had been told to suspend access to Facebook.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who currently chairs the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has ordered high-level representatives to fly to Eswatini to meet with the King to discuss "security and political developments".
Young Swazis have taken to Twitter to share their views on the matter:
Police and Soldiers are killing and shooting innocent and unarmed Protesters in Swaziland. The government has shutd… https://t.co/ibue9IQnH3— YOURS IN HIP HOP (@YOURS IN HIP HOP) 1634730461.0
It is clear #Eswatini citizens want something different to absolute monarchy. Is democracy and rule by the people s… https://t.co/Inr3UvEWL0— Peter Ndoro (@Peter Ndoro) 1634505781.0
Media blackout in #Eswatini. The two daily newspapers are not on sale today. #EswatiniProtests— Khulekani C.Nene (@Khulekani C.Nene) 1634800305.0