Unprecedented pro-democracy protests explode in the kingdom of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy

Unprecedented pro-democracy protests have exploded in the Kingdom of Eswatini, the last absolute monarchy on the African continent, formerly known as Swaziland.

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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.

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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. 

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.”

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“Defending human rights and expressing critical views have been criminalized, and authorities have systematically crushed freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” he said.

“Pro-democracy” protests started last month in the Kingdom of Eswatini following the mysterious death of 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police. Spearheaded by the youth, protesters are demanding political reforms.

According to Amnesty International, political activism has been suppressed for years in the Kingdom of Eswatini, the last absolute monarchy on the African continent, with authorities using repressive laws, including the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) as a tactic to silence critics.

Journalists, human right defenders and political activists have been jailed simply for speaking out against this repression of dissent.

“Protesters, and particularly youth, from all four regions within Eswatini are now taking to the streets to demand political reforms, and the authorities must ensure that people are able to express their grievances without fear of intimidation or abuse. There are reports that security forces have shot dead at least one protester and critically injured seven protestors. Authorities must launch a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into these reports and ensure that all those responsible, including those with command responsibility, are brought to justice in fair trials.

“The authorities must ensure that force is only used when strictly necessary and proportionate. They must not use the violent acts of a few as a pretext to restrict or impede the exercise of the rights of those who continue to protest peacefully.”

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