Eswatini nurses shot during protests: union

Eswatini security forces used live ammunition to break up a pro-democracy protest by nurses, shooting at least 30 of them, their union said Thursday.

A soldier stands in the road in Manzini on 20 October 2021. At least 80 people were injured in Eswatini on 20 October 2021, a union leader said, as security forces cracked down on escalating pro-democracy protests in Africa's last absolute monarchy. Picture: AFP

MANZINI - Eswatini security forces used live ammunition to break up a pro-democracy protest by nurses, shooting at least 30 of them, their union said Thursday.

The protest took place Wednesday, when the kingdom shut down internet access, making it difficult to gather information from across the country. Internet access remained cut off Thursday.

"Nurses and other workers converged at the Coronation Park were met with unprecedented show of force by the police and the army," the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union said in a statement.

"They were brutally dispersed and scattered all over the capital. As they were running, they were shot with live ammunition."

Four people were taken to surgery for gunshot wounds, and a total of 30 of the health workers were treated for their injuries, it added.

The 30 injured were among more than 80 hurt Wednesday in pro-democracy protests that have flared across the country once known as Swaziland.

King Mswati III is Africa's last absolute monarch, who enjoys flaunting his wealth and showering his 15 wives with lavish gifts.

Yet he rules over one of the poorest countries in the world, where nearly two-thirds of the population live in poverty and a quarter of adults has HIV.

The union said security forces kept shooting at nurses into the evening, even as they were travelling for night shifts as hospitals.

"Clearly these blood-thirsty imbeciles, brood of vipers are hellbent to kill nurses and the nation in defence of an ailing government," the union said, calling on its members not to treat any injured soldiers or police.

The latest protests have run for more than two weeks, spearheaded by students, civil servants, and transport workers.

Five high school students arrested during protests were expected in court Thursday to face terrorism charges over their role in the democracy push.

At least 29 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country's history.

The 16-nation Southern African Development Community has ordered a team of mediators to the country. They are expected to arrive later Thursday.

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