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Eswatini Civil Societies Reject Proposal to Discuss Country’s Unrest at Annual Meeting

Logo of Swaziland's Catholic Diocese of Manzini. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Representatives of Civil Society Organizations, political parties and citizens in Eswatini have rejected King Mswati III’s invitation to discuss the ongoing political crisis in the country at an annual national general meeting known as Sibaya. 

The representatives under the Swaziland Multi-Stakeholders Forum (MSF) say the call for Sibaya is a scheme to mislead the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC Troika) into believing that the nation is driven by dialogue. 

The government announced the King’s call for Sibaya after holding a meeting with SADC delegates on October 22. 

“We reiterate that Sibaya cannot, and is not an appropriate venue for an inclusive dialogue and has no significant value in shaping our destiny and as a people. We have long lost hope in such forums, and therefore WE SHALL NOT attend the meeting,” MSF officials say in a statement released after their October 23 meeting held at the Catholic Centre in Manzini, Eswatini. 

MSF officials add that the nation cannot have “calm or peaceful dialogue as long as the security forces continue to kill and maim the people.”

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“The people have no confidence in the call for calm or the gesture of calling for dialogue and the entire governance system particularly where the King and the government are working at cross purposes of the dialogue being sought,” they say, and add, “There can be no peace and reconciliation at the barrel of the gun.”

The MSF officials further say that the Eswatini government is not genuinely concerned about the people as the King chose to commiserate with those who have lost property in the ongoing unrest before consoling with families that have lost their loved ones when calling for Sibaya. 

This “demonstrates a concern more for property and infrastructure rather than the lives of the people,” say the MSF officials. 

In the statement signed by MSF's Chairperson, Thulani Rudolf Maseko, the representatives of different organizations in the country state their readiness to discuss the country’s instability with SADC or any other mediating body on a "5-point plan" for the nation. 

The plan features issues around the ban on all political parties, the need for a transitional executive authority, a new democratic constitution, a multiparty dispensation in the country and an all-inclusive mediated political dialogue. 

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“We believe that the 5-point plan carry the mandate and aspirations of the people and will advance their desire for self-determination under a system of governance that will further the interests of all citizens without favor or discrimination," MSF officials say. 

They also advocate for dialogue at “a neutral venue that will be acceptable and approved by all key stakeholders for the convening of any meetings that seek to chart a way forward for the nation'' instead of the Ludzizini Royal Residence. 

Eswatini has been engulfed by protests  since June as citizens call for a democratic rule to replace the monarchy system of government.

The latest wave of violence in the country that was previously known as Swaziland started about two weeks ago and is being spearheaded by students and transport workers. 

Last week, officials of the Catholic charity and peace foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), who expressed concern about the political instability said the protesters are calling for the release of two pre-democracy legislators arrested in June.   

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“There is growing concern about the ongoing political and security situation in the Kingdom of Eswatini. The past week has seen protests for political reform and against the brutality of the police,” DHPI officials said October 21. 

Church leaders in Africa’s only absolute monarch had also called on the government to stop using the COVID-19 situation to postpone dialogue that they said would restore peace in the country experiencing protracted protests.

The leaders under the auspices of the Council of Swaziland Churches also urged the government to address the people's grievances.

“The need for meaningful engagement cannot be overemphasized and dialogue cannot be postponed any further," the Church leaders said October 19.

They added, "Whenever there are differences of opinion and conflicts between people the only way to resolve them is through dialogue where all people will have a chance to present their views.”

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