US urges probe, dialogue after Eswatini rights leader killed

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Thulani Maseko, pictured in 2018.
Thulani Maseko, pictured in 2018.
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP


The United States called Wednesday for an impartial probe in Eswatini into the killing of a top opposition leader and urged political dialogue, as Russia seeks influence in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Thulani Maseko, a prominent opposition politician and leading human rights lawyer and columnist, was shot dead on Saturday night at his home in the landlocked southern African country.

"We offer condolences to his family and friends and we call for a full, transparent and impartial investigation, as well as accountability for those responsible," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"We remain deeply concerned about continuing violence in Eswatini and we continue to urge the government of Eswatini to set a date for an inclusive national dialogue as soon as possible because this is the best way to ensure respect for human rights, national healing and lasting peace."

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, stifles dissent with political parties banned since 1973. At least 37 people were killed during weeks of anti-monarchy protests in 2021.

READ | Slain Eswatini human rights defender Thulani Maseko was a 'lone beacon of light'

Hours before Maseko was killed, King Mswati in a defiant speech warned activists challenging him not to "shed tears" about "mercenaries killing them."

Amid the international concern over Maseko's killing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Eswatini on Tuesday and promised security training.

Lavrov said that Russia would not "interfere" in the country's domestic politics.

Russia, which has a historic relationship with neighboring South Africa, has been seeking to woo developing nations to its side since its invasion of Ukraine last year, which brought sweeping Western sanctions.



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