Southern African bloc says Eswatini king open to dialogue after protests

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King Mswati III of Eswatini, Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images
King Mswati III of Eswatini, Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images

Southern African regional bloc SADC said on Saturday that Eswatini’s King Mswati III – Africa’s last absolute monarch – had accepted the need for a national dialogue after pro-democracy protests intensified this month, Reuters reported.

“King Mswati III accepted the need for national dialogue … I call for calm, restraint, respect for the rule of law and human rights on all sides to allow the process to begin,” said the president. South African Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement as president of the political body of the SADC.

The SADC said in a statement that envoys from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and the regional group visited Eswatini Thursday and Friday and met with the king, the prime minister, civil society organizations, trade unions and others.

The monarch plans to call a meeting where people can voice their complaints, a representative of the king told the state broadcaster.

“Let the people continue the noble battle for a new free and democratic country,” Wandile Dludlu, general secretary of the opposition United Democratic People’s Movement (PUDEMO) told Reuters.

Anger against 53-year-old Mswati III has been growing for years.

Activists say it has consistently ignored calls for reforms that would move Eswatini, known as Swaziland until 2018, towards democracy.

Recent protests have included demonstrations in schools by students, bus drivers blocking roads and trade union marches.

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