An eruption of pro-democracy protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, is facing a violent crackdown by the regime of King Mswati III of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, whose ferocity may spell the end days for a kleptocratic monarchy in this small African country.
The unrest in Eswatini began in May when a law student was murdered “in circumstances that suggested police involvement.” Those protests grew into “daily pro-democracy marches” in late June, the United Nations said this week in a briefing with reporters.
Liz Throssell of the U.N.’s office on human rights, said her office had received allegations of “disproportionate and unnecessary use of force”, harassment and intimidation by security forces, including the use of live ammunition by police.
Last year, at Chatham House in London, Swazi activist Melusi Simelane explained the meaning of BLM for Africans living in Africa.
“For me, when we say Black Lives Matter, we are not talking about the color of my skin, but we are talking about our status in society. In Eswatini, we are battling a legacy of colonialism and underdevelopment, including newly established Black elites who are looting the resources and opportunities that are meant for all people in the country.
He continued: “The Black Lives Matter movement has put a spotlight on these issues. You will hear a lot of people saying that this discrimination and violence is not new. This is true… However, what is new is being allowed into spaces and having my voice heard when I talk about this. While we are not there yet by any means, the Black Lives Matter movement has allowed for that conversation to move forward.”
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference — Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland — in a pastoral letter, urged Catholics in the region to “adequately and seriously address racism and racial divisions.”
The bishops called for a national dialogue on racism and injustice in order to bring healing.
“We need to address the issues of our social trauma as a country which result from the violence of centuries of colonialism and the violent decades of apartheid,” said their statement. “We need to dialogue and work together to achieve healing as a nation and acknowledge the link between race, power and privilege.”
King Mswati III with 15 wives and 23 children, each with her own palatial estate, has indulged in “a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars and palaces,” receiving a yearly allowance of $61 million while more than half of the country’s citizens “are on the brink of hunger” and live in poverty, according to media reports.
Meanwhile, over a dozen Marines have been deployed to Eswatini to protect diplomatic and consular facilities. Local media are also reporting that a U.S. diplomatic vehicle was fired on by Eswatini soldiers. The incident on July 1 was reportedly confirmed by the U.S. embassy.