Southern African team to probe deadly eSwatini protests

Protesters have stepped up their campaign for political reform in recent days in the tiny landlocked country, formerly known as Swaziland.

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a supermarket in Manzini, eSwatini, on 30 June 2021. Demonstrations escalated radically in eSwatini as protesters took to the streets demanding immediate political reforms. Picture: AFP

MBABANE, eSwatini - A southern African mission will arrive in eSwatini on Sunday, its government has said, after the kingdom was rocked by pro-democracy protests and claims of a deadly crackdown.

Protesters have stepped up their campaign for political reform in recent days in the tiny landlocked country, formerly known as Swaziland.

The government deployed the army to disperse the crowds and unverified videos emerged of beatings by security forces.

Amnesty International accused them of a "frontal attack on human rights" and alleged at least 20 people had been killed.

The kingdom's government said it had invited the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to carry out "a fact-finding mission" from Sunday.

The 16-country bloc added that its team would encourage the kingdom to find a lasting solution to the dispute.

The government has so far said it has not received an official report on any deaths.

Internet service providers said they had been ordered to cut access to social media and online platforms until further notice.

Shops were closed during the violence but some reopened for a few hours on Saturday, according to an AFP correspondent in the capital Mbabane.

An evening curfew is in place, with a heavy police presence on the streets.

But protesters defied the rules earlier in the week and targeted buildings linked to King Mswati III.

The violence in the country of 1.3 million people sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique has drawn international condemnation.

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