President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Majesty King Mswati III, Kingdom of Swaziland, and Her Royal Highness Queen Inkhosikati La Mbikiza, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

SADC envoys deployed to Eswatini to engage with its king amid the unrest

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s) Organ on Defence, Politics and Security Cooperation, has deployed a five member panel of SADC special envoys to the Kingdom of Eswatini to engage with its king, His Majesty King Mswati III, on security and political developments in that country.

The team, which is composed of the former South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe; the deputy minister of International Relations and Cooperation Candith Mashego-Dlamini; representatives from Botswana and Nambia and Ramaphosa’s special advisor on International Relations Maropene Ramokgopa, will be accompanied by SADC Executive Secretary Elias Magosi.

Protests flared up in the kingdom in June this year after the killing of a local law student allegedly at the hands of police, leading to prolonged unrest in that country.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Presidency said Ramaphosa “appreciates His Majesty King Mswati III’s availability” to receive the delegation.

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ALJAZEERA reported that the recent flare up of pro-democracy protests in the country has resulted in the death of one person, while about 80 people have been injured at the hands of the kingdom’s security forces.

The publication reported that on Wednesday night, gunfire was heard in the country’s capital Mbabane.

According to the president of the civil servants’ union NAPSAWU, Oscar Nkambule, a man was shot and killed during the day on Wednesday, ALJAZEERA reported.

Nkambule reportedly said that in Mbabane 50 of the union’s members were taken to hospital, while in the city of Manzini 30 were hospitalized, including some who had gunshot wounds.

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Security forces reportedly spread out through Mbabane and Manzini early on Wednesday, firing teargas and rubber bullets at gatherings of people.

It was reported that as images of the unrest started making the rounds on social media, the kingdom shut down the internet in the country, which was not the first time.

Protests have gradually escalated in that country since June and reportedly left people dead, telecommunications shutdown intermittently, businesses, and government facilities were burnt.

Mobile network operators, including MTN Eswatini, have reportedly been ordered to suspend access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger, however, no reason has been provided as to what informed this instruction.

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A high school in the capital reportedly caught fire.

In a statement issued on Monday, 18 October 2021, the spokesperson of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, said: “The Secretary-General is following with concern the ongoing developments in Eswatini, including the recent deployment of armed security forces at various schools, reports of excessive use of force in response to student demonstrations, and the indefinite closure of schools. This affects adversely children and young people.”

Dujarric said the Secretary-General reiterated that it is important that the people of Eswatini are able to exercise their civil and political rights peacefully.

“He urges the Government to ensure that security forces act in conformity with relevant international human rights standards, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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“The Secretary-General condemns all acts of violence and urges all parties and the media to refrain from disinformation, hate speech and incitement.

“The United Nations remains committed to working with the Government and the people of Eswatini, and all partners, to achieve a peaceful resolution.”

Last week, the Kingdom of Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini announced the immediate and indefinite closure of schools due to “a spate of riots and violence” and also invited stakeholders to engage with government.

“Government remains open to engagements with all stakeholders to finding lasting solutions to the challenges that continue to confront us. However, this has to be done in a peaceful manner and not under incitement and violence,” Dlamini said.

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