Eswatini youth stage rare rural protest against monarchy

Eswatini youth stage rare rural protest against monarchy

Police in Eswatini on Saturday clashed with a rural demonstration demanding democratic reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Eswatini protest
Photo: Twitter/SwaziNews

Around 500 youth gathered in a village in the kingdom's Manzini district to demand the right to vote for their own prime minister, currently appointed by King Mswati III.

They burned tyres, blocked roads and chanted political slogans as they marched through the village, calling on the king to lift a longstanding ban on political parties.

An AFP reporter at the scene said police fired stun grenades and live bullets at the protest -- a rare event in rural areas, which tend to support the monarchy.

The angry crowd threw stones in response.

"We demand multi-party democracy now," said protester Melusi Dlamini. "The time for the royal system characterised by dictatorship is over."

Political parties have been banned in the tiny southern African country since 1973.

A constitution introduced in 2005 forbade parties from running in national elections, handing King Mswati III absolute power.

"As youth we no longer want the present system of governance," another protester, Noma Matsebula, told AFP.  

The king, crowned in 1986 when he was just 18, has come under fire for his expensive tastes and spending when most inhabitants live below the poverty line.

Although protests remain rare in Eswatini, public resentment has grown in recent years. 

In 2019, the country was rocked by a series of strikes by civil servants who accused the monarch of draining public coffers at the expense of his subjects.


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