Eswatini king invites his subjects for protest talks

Eswatini’s King Mswati III has called for an open forum to discuss the pro-democracy protests that rocked Africa’s last absolute monarchy last month.

The talks, known as “sibaya”, will be held on Friday 16 July at the Ludzidzini Royal Palace and all of his subjects have been invited to voice their discontent.

It will be the first time the 53-year-old monarch has addressed the violent protests that left at least 50 people dead and property worth millions of dollars destroyed in the southern African country formerly known as Swaziland.

In June, hundreds of young protesters staged rare demonstrations demanding multi-party democracy and an elected prime minister.

The main opposition party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), blamed the military for killing protesters who were marching to deliver petitions to their legislators.

According the public broadcaster in neighbouring South Africa, activists are not planning to attend the open forum and have planned a march on the same day.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Eswatini has commended the king’s move.

“His address can play an important role in calming the tension and charting a path forward for broad-based dialogue and reform,” the embassy posted on Twitter.

The embassy is among the foreign missions in Eswatini that called for dialogue as a way to peacefully resolve the unrest.

Political parties have been banned since 1973 and King Mswati appoints the prime minister, cabinet ministers, a majority of senators, judges and all members of the various governing councils.

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