Initially peaceful, pro-democracy protests in the southern African kingdom have turned violent, leaving a trail of destruction with shops looted, buildings and trucks torched, while a sugar cane field was also set alight.
THE CHAIRPERSON of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has called for steps to protect lives of citizens and their property in the kingdom of eSwatini following violent protests pushing for democratic reforms.
In a statement on Thursday, Faki urged leaders in eSwatini and other stakeholders to refrain from further acts of violence that could exacerbate the situation, encouraging constructive dialogue towards the amicable resolution of issues in the interest of peace and stability.
Initially peaceful, the protests have turned violent, leaving a trail of destruction with shops looted, buildings and trucks torched, while a sugar cane field was also set alight.
Irate pro-democracy protesters reportedly targeted businesses linked to King Mswati III as well as government properties.
The demonstrations started in the Manzini region on June 20 when young people took to the streets demanding the right to chose the prime minister democratically, as opposed to the king making the appointment.
They also wanted King Mswati to hand over power as the absolute monarch and allow democracy to prevail in the landlocked southern Africa country previously known as Swaziland.
The protests turned violent on June 28 when buildings were torched and shops looted in Matsapha. It is believed the torched businesses belong to the king.
The violence was triggered by acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku suspending the delivery of petitions to Tinkhundla, a traditional administrative unit.
According to the South African-based Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), the people of eSwatini had set a straight forward plan of engaging the government, starting with the delivery of petitions to Tinkhundla.
“The government has been given until the end of July to respond to all demands contained in the petitions, failing which the constituencies would then deliver the same petitions to the regional administrators,” SSN spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said in a statement.
“By declaring that this programme of action is not procedural, and brutally crushing it, the government has only fanned the flames of what is gradually becoming a nationwide revolt.“
The eSwatini government denied on Thursday that marshal law had been declared and the army set on citizens.
“There has been no marshal law that has been declared, as reported,” Masuku said in a statement.
Martial law is the temporary imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed.
“The government has tightened security to regain the rule of law, peace and to protect all emaSwati. We continue not to tolerate the looting, arson, violence, and all other forms of criminality that are currently being directed at businesses and people’s property,” Masuku said.
The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) accused the government of intensifying censorship by shutting down the internet and unleashing the military on the masses.
“The regime used the internet blackout to invade people’s homes, randomly assault, shoot and kill people, hoping the attacks would not be detected,” CPS general secretary Thokozane Kunene said in a statement.
Over 40 people have been killed, 150 more injured while hundreds more are missing, according media reports citing opposition leaders.
Faki said he was following the situation closely and with deep concern.
He reiterated the Africa Union’s continued commitment to supporting the people and government of eSwatini in their quest for a peaceful resolution, within the framework of the continental body’s long standing principles of solidarity.
African News Agency (ANA)