eSwatini: schools closed “for an indefinite period with immediate effect”

For several weeks, schoolchildren and high school students have been demonstrating to demand the end of the regime and free education.

The kingdom of eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy facing a new wave of anti-regime protest led by the youth, announced Saturday, October 16 the closure of schools “for an indefinite period with immediate effect”. Schoolchildren and high school students in the small, poor and landlocked country of southern Africa, formerly known as Swaziland, have been demonstrating peacefully for several weeks and boycotting classes to demand the end of the regime and free education.“His Majesty’s government has taken the decision to close the schools indefinitely with immediate effect”, Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini announced in a statement.

Country stopped

The army and police have been deployed to schools and several students have been arrested, according to pro-democracy activists. Friday, October 15, the Internet was blocked for two hours, then the network slowly restarted, partially paralyzing many services and businesses. King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, holds shares in all of the country’s telecommunications companies. Unions, opposition parties, student groups and private minibus operators calling for political reforms have joined the protests in recent weeks.

Events

Civil society and the opposition staged protests in the towns of Manzini and Mbabane in June, which led to the looting of shops and properties, some of which belonged to King Mswati III. At least 28 people have been killed in clashes between police and demonstrators in one of the most violent protests in the history of the southern African country of 1.3 million people. The kingdom then decreed a curfew, deployed the army and cut the internet, organizing behind closed doors a crackdown on the anti-monarchy movement condemned by the international community.

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Absolute monarchy

In eSwatini, the king appoints ministers, controls Parliament, and political parties have been banned for nearly 50 years. Crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, the sovereign who has 15 wives and more than 25 children is criticized for his iron fist and his lavish lifestyle in a country where two-thirds of the population live below the threshold of poverty.

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