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Catholic Bishop of Eswatini’s Manzini Diocese Decries Lack of Closure to Country’s Protest

Bishop José Luis Ponce de León of Eswatini's Manzini Diocese. Credit: Vatican Media

The Catholic Bishop of Manzini, the only Diocese in the Kingdom of Eswatini, has expressed concern over the situation of ambiguity in the country following recent pro-democracy protests that turned violent.

Pro-democracy protests rocked the Southern African Kingdom in June resulting in the deaths of at least 50 people.

“The government has not yet given any indications about the way forward and how the issues raised by the unrest would be addressed,” Bishop José Luis Ponce de León has been quoted as saying in a Tuesday, September 7 news report.

Making reference to King Mswati III’s call for prayer in the country, Bishop Ponce de León further says, “Action should follow prayer and that one should not expect God to solve our problems without our own commitment.”

King Mswati called on the people of God in the Southern African nation previously known as Swaziland to observe three days of prayer and fasting from August 26 to 28 for the country’s healing.

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The unrest began in May when university students took to the streets to call for accountability for the death of their colleague, 25-year-old Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police.

In late June, the protests grew into daily pro-democracy marches in several locations in Eswatini, with protesters voicing deep-seated political and economic grievances.

In the September 7 news report by Agenzia Fides, Bishop Ponce de León says the situation in the country is “calm with sporadic episodes of violence.”

He expresses concern over uncertainties in the country months after the pro-democracy protests.

“Some opposition groups have called to boycott businesses linked (or believed to be linked) to the Royal family in order to put pressure on the government and achieve the very much needed national dialogue,” the member of the Consolata Missionaries says.

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He adds, “The army was deployed on June 29 and has not been called back to the barracks since then. Concerns were raised regarding the request to allocate more money to the security forces and the risk of making this a military State". 

In the news report, the Local Ordinary of Manzini also calls on officials of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to make public their findings about the pro-democracy violence. 

SADC delegates were in Eswatini from July 15 to 22 to gather perspectives on the conditions that led to the protests. 

“The SADC fact finding mission report has been presented to the government but as far as I know the contents have not been made available to the public,” the native of Argentina says.

He adds, “For the sake of the SADC image (among other reasons) it is important that everyone has access to it as the consultation involved the government and many other organizations: Non-Governmental Organizations, political groups and churches.”

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