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Eswatini military sent to quell pro-democracy riots: Activists

By AFP | June 29th 2021

King Mswati III. [Courtesy]

Eswatini deployed soldiers overnight to an industrial town near the capital to crack down on protests against the ruling authorities in Africa's last absolute monarchy, pro-democracy activists said Tuesday.

Protests are usually rare in Eswatini, but recent weeks have seen violent anti-monarchy demonstrations erupting in parts of the country.

"The military is on the streets," Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for the pro-democracy grouping Swaziland Solidarity Network, told AFP.

"Yesterday was the worst night ever where a young man was shot point-blank by the army, and some are in hospital as we speak," said Lukhele.

Shops were looted and torched overnight in Matsapha, an industrial hub on the western edge of the capital Manzini, according to several sources.

Lukhele also said he had been told by his military sources that King Mswati III had left Eswatini.

But a source close to the government told AFP that reports of the king fleeing the country were "fake news".

The government last week banned protests, with National Police Commissioner William Dlamini warning that officers would be "zero-tolerant" of breaches of the ban.

The king, crowned in 1986 when he was just 18, has come under fire for his expensive tastes and spending while most inhabitants live below the poverty line.

In 2019, the country was rocked by a series of strikes by civil servants who accused the monarch of draining public coffers at the expense of his subjects.

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