Churches in Swaziland Decry Authorities’ Excessive Use of Force in Protracted Conflict

Representatives of Christian leaders in Eswatini under the auspices of the Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC). Credit: Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC)

The Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC) has decried alleged incidences of brutality by authorities in the Southern African nation that is experiencing unrest amid calls for democracy.

In a statement circulated Thursday, May 19, the church leaders in Swaziland express with concern that violence has become an everyday occurrence in the country and appeal to government agencies to find ways to end the conflict without excessive use of force.

“The Council of Swaziland Churches notes with concern the continuing tension in the country that has unfortunately led to the violence that we are seeing and hearing about almost every day. This comes as a result of many unresolved conflicts that the nation has been grappling with, especially since May 2021,” the Church leaders say in the statement signed by the Council Secretary, Rev. Zwanini Shabalala.

They call on security agencies in the country “to stop the excessive use of force and follow the law when doing their work” as the Southern African nation continues to look for a lasting solution to its challenges.

“We note with concern the growing frustration and anger coming from both government agencies and protesting citizens which has led to destruction of property, injuries and loss of lives.,” CSC officials say, adding that significant damage has been recorded in students’ protests, trade unions’ demonstrations and in mass actions by pro-democracy groups in the country.


They also observe with concern the rising number of arson attacks on properties belonging to individuals and private companies. The attacks, the church leaders in Swaziland say, are affecting both sides of the country’s political divide.

The CSC leadership says that it “strongly believes in resolving any form of conflict through engagement and without violence.”

“We … condemn all forms of violence regardless of who the perpetrator is,” the church leaders say, and add, “We had hoped that the political dialogue announced by the king would happen soonest in order to avoid further destruction and loss of lives; however the government is still silent on the logistics of this dialogue.”

They call on the government of Swaziland, also referred to as Eswatini, to speed up the all-inclusive dialogue process by allowing all concerned civic groups and stakeholders to make inputs in the preparations for the dialogue.

The church leaders express optimism that the dialogue process will be done in an open and transparent manner “where all emaSwati can be heard.”

More in Africa

The faith-based leaders also call on soldiers in the country to stop meddling in security issues that do not concern them and to allow trained police officers to do their work and to bring calm in the country.

The soldiers, CSC officials say, should “remain in the barracks as they are not trained to do police work.”

“This we are saying in relation to the allegations that members of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defense Force abducted and assaulted the leaders of the student's organization before dumping him at the police station,” the church leaders in Swaziland say.

In their May 19 message, they call for cases of brutality by security forces to be investigated by competent and independent bodies “as the security forces cannot investigate themselves.”

The officials of the CSC also call on those behind the arson attacks to give dialogue a chance “in order to avoid seeing the country slide into civil war.”


They also appeal to the Swaziland government to work together with students in the country to resolve the conflicts that are affecting tertiary learning. The church leaders warn that failure to collaborate in resolving these conflicts will deeply compromise the country’s education system.

“The destruction and looting of university property by students and the closure of the institution by the government is not a solution,” they say.

“The Council of Swaziland Churches continues to pray for the country and to advocate for an all-inclusive political dialogue that will restore justice and peace for all emaSwati,” the church leaders say.

Meanwhile, locals in Swaziland have expressed their dissatisfaction with the preparation for dialogue in the Southern African nation, some telling Catholic charity foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), that the country is still too hostile for any meaningful dialogue to end the ongoing protests.

In a Thursday, May 19 report, DHPI says that authorities in Swaziland “have yet to show they are serious about dialogue”

(Story continues below)

According to the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), some locals in Eswatini are of the feeling that they are being left out of the planning and inception stages of the process.

Still, others feel that the drafting of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the proposed talks is not an inclusive process.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.