Pro-democracy protests that have swept across the tiny kingdom of eSwatini for the past month are proving to be increasingly deadly and dangerous.
According to human rights organisation Amnesty International, at least 20 protesters have been killed, with six others not yet accounted for, they said in a statement on Friday. Some of the dead have not yet been identified.
A further 150 demonstrators have been hospitalised, with reports indicating police used live ammunition to disperse incensed crowds.
Secretary general of the People’s United Democratic Movement, Wandile Dludlu, said on Friday (2 July 2021) that 29 deaths had been confirmed, but that over 60 unarmed residents and protesters had been killed, and more than 200 wounded, according to AFP.
eSwatini’s ruler, King Mswati III, is Africa’s only remaining absolute monarch. His late father, King Sobhuza II, banned political parties in 1973, a law that has not yet been lifted.
With a growing movement of African countries being increasingly less tolerant of autocratic rule, eSwatini protesters, many of them young people and university students, decided to take on the king and his absolute rule.
The pro-democracy protesters are demanding a multi-party democracy and an elected prime minister.
In response, the government of eSwatini retaliated with force, a move branded by Amnesty International director for east and southern Africa Deprose Muchena as a “full-frontal assault on human rights.”
Activists say eight people were killed and dozens injured in clashes with police.
“Dozens of people have been killed for daring to demand that their government respects human rights.”
People have not only lost their lives. The eSwatini government also reportedly cut off residents’ internet access, and imposed a 6pm to 5am curfew.
Petrol is also reportedly in short supply. Shops have since been ransacked and torched. An HB motor dealership in Manzini was burnt to the ground, and Swaziland Breweries was destroyed.
AFP reported that a local parliamentary constituency office was burnt in the village of Mayiwane, around 100 kilometres northeast of the capital, according to witnesses.
Muchena and the organisation urged authorities in eSwatini to “end this escalating crackdown, and ensure that people can peacefully exercise their human rights including by allowing them to freely express their opinions without fear of violent retaliation.”
The organisation also called on authorities to carry out an investigation into reports of police using excessive force, and to bring justice to anyone suspected to be responsible “in fair trials”.
This article was syndicated from The Citizen (https://www.thecitizen.co.za/) on 3 July 2021. Additional reporting was done by AFP and Eric Naki. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article (https://citizen.co.za/news/news-world/news-africa/2553138/eswatini-protests-at-least-20-dead-more-than-150-hospitalised/).