United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is concerned about the unrest in the Kingdom of eSwatini, his spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the UN chief was following developments in eSwatini with increasing concern, notably clashes between security forces and demonstrators that have led to deaths and injuries.
“The secretary-general underlines the importance of enabling all emaSwati to exercise their civil and political rights peacefully and urges the security forces to exercise utmost restraint,” he said in a statement.
He said Guterres reiterated his call on all stakeholders to refrain from violence and address their differences through inclusive and meaningful dialogue. He also welcomed efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to find a solution to the situation.
“The United Nations remains committed to working with the government and the people of eSwatini, and all partners, to ensure a peaceful resolution,” he said.
The Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is engulfed in violent protests as citizens push for democratic reforms.
The protests began peacefully in the Manzini region on June 20 but turned violent on June 28 after Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku banned protests and demonstrations, citing Covid-19 regulations.
Pro-democracy protesters are calling for the right to choose the prime minister democratically as opposed to the prime minister being appointed by the king.
They are also demanding that King Mswati III hand over power as the absolute monarch and allow democracy to prevail in the landlocked southern African country.
Angry protesters torched government buildings and property linked to King Mswati III.
Masuku said the cost of the damage caused to government and private property was estimated at 3 billion Emalangeni (about US$209,930,000).
The government has denied unleashing the army to mow down the people. The exact death toll is unclear, with opposition party the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) putting the figure at more than 69.
The party said more than 40 people were allegedly killed by the army on July 1 and another 29 on July 2. About 150 were injured and hundreds of others were missing or unaccounted for, it said.
The party said it sourced this information from leading hospitals in eSwatini.
Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco) reported on its social media platforms that more than 47 people have died at the hands of the army.