- SADC says it will return to Eswatini to speak to more civil society groups, especially the youth.
- Pro-democracy groups and lawmakers have criticised the mission for its narrow focus.
- The Eswatini government welcomed the mission, pleading with citizens to remain patient with the regional intervention.
A mission from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will return to Eswatini to meet with a wider group of players in the ongoing crisis.
"This was an initial mission and urgent one," SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said in a statement to News24.
The SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security visited the embattled kingdom on Sunday. The delegation included South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor and was led by Botswana's International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Lemogang Kwape.
The SADC Troika met with acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku, as well as members of civil society, including church groups and non-governmental organisations, to discuss the deadly protests in Eswatini.
Pro-democracy lawmakers and civil society groups accused the Eswatini government of handpicking the groups invited to meet regional diplomats. A member of parliament forced into hiding after he called for elections said the Eswatini government had tried to rush a last-minute meeting with him at the behest of SADC delegates.
Deadly protests have rocked the country since last Tuesday, with activists saying between 50 and 70 people have been killed in the violence between security forces and demonstrators. The government has disputed the death toll, launching an investigation to determine the number of people killed.
SADC said the mission was able to meet with 10 organisations, including the Swazi Democratic Party, the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs, three church groups, opposition movement the People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), along with the Law Society of Eswatini and the Human Rights Commission.
"NONETHELESS [sic], it should be noted that this is a very brief interaction on the understanding that the mission will return for detailed interactions," Tax said.
"In addition to interaction with the [government], the mission briefly met other stakeholders, noting that the list was not inclusive enough, and time was not adequate; the mission undertook to return and engage extensively with stakeholders, and the youth is among the groups that the mission will engage," Tax added.
The Eswatini government said it was "very happy" with the initial trip by the regional body.
"This SADC fact-finding mission will continue in due course as we share the common regional objective of ensuring sustainable peace and stability in our region," acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a press briefing on Monday. "I plead with the nation to stay calm and patient while the process is ongoing."
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
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