What is happening in Eswatini

Civil unrest in Eswatini, which began last month, has claimed the lives of more than 50 protestors. What has spurred the unrest? Here is what is happening in Eswatini.

On the 20th of June, young people gathered for a peaceful protest to call for political reform across the landlocked country. The drive for the protests began in parliament with three pro-democracy members of parliament (MPs) advocating that the country should be ruled by a democratic government. They requested for a prime minister to be appointed independently of the king and for the king to remain outside of politics. Under the current rule, the king appoints the prime minister.

Outside parliament, the MPs mobilised the youth to deliver petitions around the country, but parliament banned the delivery of the petitions. What ensued was chaos and mass protests as the freedom of speech of the country’s citizens was silenced.

In response, the government has been intolerant of any dissension and has made use of excessive force including live ammunition to stop the protests. According to Human Rights organisation Amnesty International, at least 50 protesters have been killed. Many more have been hospitalised with serious injuries. The Acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, said the protest had also led to 5 000 jobs losses and R3 billion in damages.

During that period, the internet and telecommunication channels were shut down, including one of the main service providers MTN, to avoid information being shared online – resulting in censorship of the journalists and the citizens who were using the social media platforms to raise awareness.

In the past, political activism has been suppressed but now protesters who are led by youth activists are calling for reform in the country and the right to freedom of speech. King Mswati III has summoned the nation to the kraal on Friday, 16 July, amidst a planned national march by all citizens of Eswatini on the same day. The planned march for ‘Change and Justice’ by Eswatini’s citizens will go ahead to reiterate their demands, honor those who have lost their lives, and support the families in mourning.

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