Eswatini pro-democracy protests continue to mount as government blocks internet, social media

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Firefighters extinguish a fire at a supermarket in Manzini, Eswatini on 30 June 2021 in the wake of protests.
Firefighters extinguish a fire at a supermarket in Manzini, Eswatini on 30 June 2021 in the wake of protests.
  • Eswatini's government shut down the internet for two hours as ongoing pro-democracy protests swept towards the capital.
  • Before the shutdown, images of the protests, including some claiming to show people shot by security forces, circulated on social media.
  • The protests have been running for more than two weeks, with unions, opposition parties, and student groups joining in.

Mbabane – Eswatini, Africa's last absolute monarchy, shut down the internet for two hours on Friday as pro-democracy marchers headed to the capital.

The shutdown came as images of the protests circulated on social and traditional media, including pictures of two people who said they had been injured by gunshots fired by security forces.

The internet shutdown blocked social media completely for two hours, and left many services running very slowly afterwards.

"It is a pity that we have a government that chooses on suppressing the people's voices, or shut down all communications lines, instead of addressing the demands that are being raised by our people," said Wonder Mkhonza, general secretary of the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland.

He told AFP:

The ostrich mentality by the dictatorship is shameful to say the least. The ruling elites are hell-bent on taking the whole country down with them and they will pay for their actions.

Formerly known as Swaziland, Eswatini is ruled by King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch.

He owns shares in all of the country's telecoms.

Calls for release of lawmakers

Unions, opposition parties, and student groups have joined the latest protests, which have run for more than two weeks.

Protesters have also closed roads leading to all borders in the tiny, landlocked nation. Soldiers were seen on the streets in main cities.

The latest demonstrations have mainly called for the release of two lawmakers arrested during pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

Civil society and opposition groups demonstrated in the largest cities Manzini and Mbabane in June, looting shops and ransacking business properties.

At least 28 people died as police clashed with protesters in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country's history. The latest fatality came on Wednesday.

But at the root of all the protesters' demands is an insistence on democratic reform.

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