Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. He can be reached on [email protected]
The Biden administration on Thursday advised Americans not to travel to Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, which has been rocked by five days of violent protests triggered by the king’s decree banning petitions to the government calling for democratic reforms. Eswatini has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986.
The U.S. Department of State raised raised the travel advisory level for Eswatini to Level 4 (Do Not Travel), replacing the previous travel advisory issued on June 16, 2021.
“Eswatini is experiencing dangerous civil unrest and protests across the country. The government of Eswatini has announced a nationwide curfew from 1800 – 0500. KMIII International Airport has suspended operations. Communication disruptions, including internet and cell phone service, are occurring. The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Eswatini,” the Department of State said.
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On July 1, 2021, the Department also allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members.
For Americans still in Eswatini, the U.S. government advised them to avoid demonstrations and crowds, monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans, keep travel documents up to date and easily accessible, and have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch joined calls by other human rights organizations, including Amnesty International to demand that Eswatini authorities ensure that security forces deployed in the wake of protests respect citizens’ rights and observe international standards of law enforcement.
“The Eswatini government should ensure that security forces act within the law, and avoid arbitrary use of force,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “They should put in place a range of measures to safeguard citizens against violence and to prosecute all unlawful use of force.”
At least seven people have critically been injured and one person has reportedly been killed after police fired teargas and live ammunition at protesters on Monday night.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International urged the Eswatini authorities to respect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, as pro-democracy protests intensify.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said, the protests unfolding across Eswatini are “a result of years of denial of political, economic and social right to the people, including young people, and recent escalation of suppression of dissent by the authorities.”
Officially renamed in 2018 from Swaziland, Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It is landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to its northeast and South Africa to its north, west, and south.