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A king–size crisis

Brutal army crackdowns against pro-democracy protests have prompted concerns among Eswatini's neighbours, with the Southern African Development Community sending a team of 16 ministers to the country on 5 July.

South Africa has called for 'total restraint' by the security services and President Cyril Ramaphosa's ruling African National Congress issued a strong rebuke, with head of international relations, Lindiwe Zulu, stating that 'the use of security forces to quell political dissent and the failure to address legitimate civilian concerns complicates the conflict and adds fuel to the fire.'

The government in Mbabane denies reports that King Mswati III has fled to South Africa, which surrounds Eswatini.

Over 30 protestors have been killed, local sources told Africa Confidential, after the king, Africa's last absolute monarch, deployed the army. Prime Minister Themba Masuku's initial attempts to deny that deaths had resulted were abandoned. Masuku, appointed by the King, then insisted that the protesters had descended into 'criminality', arguing they had looted and damaged property. Videos posted on social media appear to show soldiers firing at and assaulting demonstrators.

Political parties have been banned since 1973, and the protests have focused on public petitions, which had called for an elected prime minister. The government banned public petitions in the country, referred to as Africa's 'failed feudal state' last month (AC Vol 54 No 20, 'Failed feudal state'). 

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