After days of violent protests against its absolute monarch, King Mswati III, the government of eSwatini has invited the army to restore law and order in the southern African nation.
Sporadic rallies against King Mswati III hit major cities in the country were marred by rioting and looting. A witnesses confirmed that most settlements have been quiet since internet blackouts were imposed on Wednesday.
At least 28 people have been allegedly murdered by Eswatini’s security forces during the pro-democracy protests, the Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco) said on Wednesday.
“The army has been unleashed against unarmed civilians…at least 28 persons have been killed,” said Simelane
Mswati’s has continued to deny the charge by his detractors. His critics allege that he is repressive and misuses the country’s public money to fund a personal luxurious lifestyle.
The monarch has hardly been seen in public since recovering from COVID-19 in February, although his government denies reports that he fled abroad after protests on Monday.
“While we continue to advocate…the right to protest, we cannot condone the attacks on people and their property. The … riots are also in violation of COVID-19 regulations,” Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a statement.
“We have had to call in the army to protect critical national infrastructure and enforce the COVID-19 regulations. (But) there has been no martial law,” he added.
Security forces have dispersed demonstrators with tear gas, gunshots and even low-flying helicopters, prompting diplomats and rights group to urge restraint. A curfew from 6 p.m. until 5 a.m. is in force.
“We urge the government to exercise restraint and also maintain the utmost respect for human rights,” the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday. “The United States strongly supports … freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Neighbour South Africa also called for restraint and “meaningful dialogue,” while Amnesty International said the government had “systematically crushed freedom of expression”.
Similarly, protests by activists demonstrating in solidarity with pro-democracy protests in eSwatini took place at the Mananga border post in Mpumalanga Province. Members from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) were seen holding peaceful picket at the Oschoek border gate.