Eswatini on Tuesday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew amid pro-democracy protests that have rocked the nation for three consecutive days, reported Reuters. The protestors have vowed to intensify demonstrations in the coming days demanding democratic reforms and the lifting of bans on all opposition parties in the country.
“Unfortunately, the protests we are seeing of late have been hijacked by criminal elements. Such cannot be accepted under any circumstances,” acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Eswatini government has ordered all businesses to close by 3:30 pm (13.30GMT) and a strict curfew has been imposed from 6 pm until 5 am to curb violence in several parts of the country perpetuated by an unruly crowd. Schools have been asked to close until further notice.
Prime Minister Masuku denied media reports that King Mswati III had fled the violence to South Africa.
“His Majesty … is in the country and continues to advance the kingdom’s goals,” Masuku said in a statement. “We appeal for calm, restraint and peace.”
The prime minister said that the government would soon update the nation on the government’s interventions in the current situation.
Notably, King Mswati III, who has ruled the country for more than three decades, is accused by the demonstrators of human rights abuses and running a repressive government. Political parties have been from participating in parliamentary elections in the country since 1973.
According to human rights groups, the 53-year-old king and his family, including 15 wives, are accused of enjoying a lavish lifestyle while most of the country’s 1.1 million people are impoverished. He is the only absolute monarch in Africa and one of the few remaining in the world.
The pro-democracy protests began in the Kingdom of Eswatini last month following the mysterious death of 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police. Spearheaded by the youth, protesters are demanding political reforms.