Protests in EswatiniEswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is a country in sub-Saharan Africa that has been dealing with protests for weeks. The pro-democracy protests in Eswatini are against the rule of King Mswati III, who has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle.

Poverty in Eswatini

In 2018, Swaziland changed its name to Eswatini. It borders South Africa and Mozambique. According to NPR, the country is Africa’s last absolute monarchy, and political parties are banned there. The ruler of the country is King Mswati III, who has reigned since his coronation in 1986.

King Mswati III has received heavy criticism for living in luxury while nearly two-thirds of Eswatini’s population of 1.2 million live in poverty. This gaping inequality is one of the reasons for the current pro-democracy protests in Eswatini.

Additionally, more than 330,000 people in Eswatini struggle with food insecurity. The country is still reeling from COVID-19 and a 2016 drought that ravaged the country’s food supply. Most of its people face poverty while their king lives in splendor.

Pro-Democracy Protests in Eswatini

Over the past few weeks, protests have broken out in Eswatini. People have rallied in opposition to the monarchy, and specifically the king. They are also expressing displeasure about restrictions on political expression and the poor state of the economy.

The protests have also caused immense damage both to the country and its people. At least 40 people have died, and more than 150 protestors have been taken to hospital with injuries. Additionally, violence and looting have caused a lack of basic necessities for many citizens. Protestors are calling for greater political participation, a limit on the monarchy’s power and a popular election for a Prime Minister instead of an appointment by the king.

Light in the Darkness

However bleak the forecast may seem for the protests in Eswatini, there is a ray of hope. Following the social unrest in Eswatini and South Africa, female religious leaders organized a Day of Prayer for their countries to heal.

The Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life in Southern Africa (LCCLSA) organized an online Day of Prayer. The event encouraged participants to pray for peace, healing and an end to the violence. Some people also shared testimonies of how the violence has affected them and their families, allowing for collective healing.

“Though painful and sad to listen to, the testimonies proved to be inspiring and gave a glimmer of hope in the midst of the hopelessness that people are feeling,” Sr Nkhensani Shibambu, President of LCCLSA, told Vatican News. “Many people were moved and touched by the initiative and felt inspired to begin the rebuilding of the country from the ashes that had surrounded them in the past weeks.”

While protests ravage Eswatini, highlighting the inequity between the lavish lifestyle of King Mswati III and the two-thirds of citizens living in poverty, there is hope in people coming together to pray for healing and a better future for the country.

Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Swaziland
Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is an enclaved country within Southern Africa. The nation faces a massive problem of homelessness caused by a broken system of human rights and poverty. The country’s land governance system has unfairly sent many people out of their homes. King Mswati III owns much of the land that the people live on — leaving the Swazi people powerless when evictions occur. These evictions hit women and other marginalized groups especially hard, as they do not have protection under the law. AIDS, HIV and the eradication of agriculture for land development have also played a role in worsening homelessness in Eswatini.

Land Insecurity

Farming is a vital part of the Swazi peoples’ livelihood. Yet, recent land development disputes have begun to hurt farming practices with evictions leaving hundreds of people homeless. These evictions have occurred at the hands of police and bulldozers, which destroyed many homes. To make matters worse, many newly-evicted people have no alternative or even temporary shelter. In April 2018, dozens of people and more than 30 children became homeless — forced to live in inhumane conditions. Some people slept at a local school, some slept outside of their now-demolished home and some slept in a chicken shed.

As more people increasingly fall victim to homelessness in Eswatini, fewer places exist for families to purchase goods for themselves. It has been difficult to fight these evictions due to the country’s government being an absolute monarchy. As a result, people cannot overturn the policies that the king has put in place. These forced evictions come from not only Mswati III owning the land, but also private entities and/or the government owning some as well. This leaves the Swazi people at a high risk of eviction without preparation, warning or recompense.

Connections to HIV

The contraction of HIV has also contributed to the problem of homelessness in Eswatini. Almost 40% of sexually active Swazi adults are positive of the virus. As adults suffer or die as a result of HIV contraction, their children and other members of their households are left without a breadwinner. Sometimes, these homes become children-led. This makes it easier for the government to remove the homes with no plan or adequate place for the family to live afterward.

What is Being Done?

Amnesty International, a non-government organization focused on human rights, reported human rights violations causing homelessness in Eswatini. Moreover, Amnesty International assessed that the violations were caused by the country’s government. The organization has recommended and pushed the prime minister, attorney general and the minister of justice to address this problem. It has urged the prime minister to prohibit all evictions due to violations of legal protections and lack of adequate housing. Specifically, in the regions of Malkerns and Nokwane, the prime minister is to protect the people and provide them with safe places to live until they find a home. The attorney general is to put into law the stoppage of all forced evictions regardless of the circumstance. Relevant institutions would have to go through the proper procedures, before evicting someone.

Upon converting these policies into law, the attorney general is to make sure their new land policy is in line with international human rights involving housing. In this way, the government is taking action to reduce the problem of homelessness in Eswatini.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

In recent years many notorious leaders have been overthrown and put to death for their ruthless ways. Unfortunately, more of these leaders still remain around the world and continue to hold power over innocent lives. Here are 4 that are still around.

Kim Jong un- North Korea

In 2011, Kim Jong-un became Supreme Leader of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, AKA North Korea, preceding his father, longtime dictator Kim Jong-Il whom was in power since 1941.

Today, the desolation of human rights still remains under rule of Jong-un. Thousands of people are held in political prison camps, facing starvation, daily beatings and death. People are sent to these camps for numerous reasons; government opposition being the main one.

If they are not sent to prison camps, execution is likely ordered by the dictator. Among recent reports Jong-un ordered the execution of his grandfather and in 2011, also executed his then girlfriend, Hyon Song Wol. Jong –UN also holds American Kenneth Bae captive for unknown reasons and refuses to release him to the American government.

Outside of prison camps famine spreads like wildfire. An estimated 1 million people have died from starvation since 1990. In addition to this, mobile phone use is highly restricted and internet usage is monitored and filtered by the government.  Television is also censored and runs numerous ads painting the U.S. as an evil nation.  Government opposition is not tolerated by Kim Jong- UN.

Xi Jinping – China

Xi Jinping became president of China in March of 2013. The communist leader claims to have loosened the ties on certain human rights violations, such as eliminating labor camps and modifying the one child rule. However, reports have surfaced stating the newly created “rehab centers” to replace labor camps might be close to one in the same. People are still beaten and starved for opposing government power and expressing religious freedom.

Complete control over all media and internet usage is common in China. Over 40,000 people are employed by the government to monitor web browsing and block news sites deemed unacceptable. Any form of government rebellion is not tolerated. Many people have been punished for speaking out against the dictatorship. Thousands of people are executed and tortured every year for this.

Bashar Al Assad – Syria

President of Syria since 2000, Al- Assad took over after his father Hafez al-Assad died. Once hoped to be a reformer of his father’s ruthless political ways, Al- Assad quickly revealed keen dictatorship after government protesters were attacked under his command.

Internet usage is monitored around the clock.  Blockage of popular internet sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia occurred throughout the 2008 -2011 time period.

Protesters are continuously attacked and imprisoned for opposing the dictator. During the 2011 Syrian war, gang rapes of young boys and the killing of children as young as two by Syrian security were reported.

King Mswati III – Swaziland

Located in Africa, Swaziland shares borders with South Africa and Mozambique. This country has been under the rule of King Mswati III’s dictatorship since 1986. The 1 million plus country longs for a democratic government however, King Mswati clearly objects to splitting up the political parties, sticking with traditional monarchies.

Mswati’s monarchy has been known for its lavish and carefree ways which have depleted economic funds. Careless handling of finances has left the Swaziland people to fight for their lives.

Poverty, food shortages and disease take countless lives every day. Over 26 percent of adults live with AIDS, making it the highest rate per country in the world.  Anti-viral treatments that could lower this number dramatically are not provided by the government, resulting in thousands of children becoming orphans every year. The life expectancy in Swaziland is the lowest in the world, estimated to be 48.

Amy Robinson

Sources: USA Today, Amnesty International, CNN, Human Rights Watch, BBC, World Vision
Photo: Foreign Policy