King Mswati III has fled Eswatini amid violent protests in parts of the kingdom, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported late Monday.
Angry youths targeted economic centers around the African kingdom, formally known as Swaziland, including the capital Mbabane and the Matsapha Industrial Site.
They reportedly went on a rampage, closing main roads with huge stones and burning tires, causing traffic jams.
They also looted shops and supermarkets and set fire to them afterwards.
The United Nations has urgently circulated a security alert to its staff due to the political unrest in the kingdom.
“According to the information we have received, there is coordinated civil unrest happening in various parts of the country.
“In some areas, roads are closed and are being closed using stones, burning tires, and stones are being thrown at moving cars. With such incidents, the safety of our staff is not guaranteed. Hence, taking preventative measures is key,” the alert said.
“Staff are advised to work virtually or home until further notice to ensure safety and security until incidents occurring randomly are cleared. Regularly monitor public sources, such as social media, local news and national press to capture information about potential protests that may target your specific organization,” it added.
There are unconfirmed reports that the army, which has been deployed, has shot and killed seven youths at the Matsapha Industrial Site.
The youth activism was triggered by the mysterious death of a young university law student, Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of police in May.
Close to 3,000 youth marched to Matsapha Police Station and attempted to burn it down.
Since then, their activism has never subsided. They began calling for democratic reforms, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote.
Currently, the constitution gives King Mswati the power to appoint the prime minister.
Last Thursday, a decree by Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku banning the delivery of petitions to constituency centers triggered defiance and resulted in violent protests.
In a statement, he said “it has become apparent that this exercise has created a breeding ground for anarchy and has been intentionally hijacked to sow seeds of division. This is a kingdom that believes in dialogue when addressing the challenges that confront us in order to peacefully surge forward in unity and cohesion. It is the bedrock upon which our governance and progression as an economy has rested for hundreds of years.”
The Monday protests are the continuation of Saturday’s defiant mood, where about 2,000 youths clashed with a contingent of riot police, closing businesses in the town of Siphofaneni.
Raging youth threw stones at police, who retaliated by firing tear gas. That threw the tiny town into complete anarchy as people were running for their lives as a result of the conflict.
Rubber bullets were fired at the unyielding youth, who at times would force police to retreat.
Three trucks were also torched on Saturday by protesting youth. –