Africa’s Last Absolute Monarchy Eswatini Denies King Fled

Eswatini’s government introduced a curfew and denied King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, fled his country as pro-democracy protests turned violent and the nation’s communist party alleged he’d flown in his private jet to neighboring South Africa.

A 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is effective immediately to ensure safety and security and avoid unnecessary movements, the government said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

“King Mswati III is in the country and continues to lead in working with government to advance the kingdom’s goal,” acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a separate statement released on Twitter.

Demonstrators earlier set fire to several shops in Matsapha town in central Eswatini, according to South African Broadcasting Corp. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters demanding democracy in the country that has banned political parties since the early 1970s.

Known as Swaziland until 2018, Eswatini has been led since 1986 by King Mswati III, who controls parliament and appoints ministers. The landlocked country of 1.3 million people surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique exports sugar, soft-drink concentrates and cotton. It’s also the last African nation that recognizes Taiwan as an independent nation and an ally.

The unrest will probably intensify in the coming days and spread across the country, according to Menzi Ndhlovu, an analyst at Signal Risk in Johannesburg.

Some Concessions

“While the toppling of the monarchy cannot be entirely ruled out, precedent suggests that such an outcome is unlikely,” he said in an emailed note. “Instead, King Mswati could yield to some concessions as a means of appeasing and placating the protesters.”

The government welcomes free speech and will work with parliament to address grievances, the government said. Concerned citizens should use alternative means to express them to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and the government gave an email address for this purpose, it said. About half of its citizens have internet access.

“While the current wave of unrest in Eswatini has immediate triggers, it is rooted in historic and deep-seated grievances regarding the monarchy and its governance,” Ndhlovu said. “Intervention by regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community is also probable.”

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