[Update: 6 p.m. June 30]
Taiwanese Ambassador to Eswatini Jeremy H.S. Liang says Mswati III, in fact, remains in the kingdom. However, the monarch has yet to appear in public or offer a statement on the unrest.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — King Mswati III of Eswatini, Taiwan's only official diplomatic ally in Africa, has reportedly fled his country in the midst of escalating protests.
South Africa's SABC News on Tuesday (June 29) cited "unconfirmed reports" of rioting in the central Eswatini town of Matsapha, with several people injured, and reported that Mswati III has left the country amid the turmoil.
Protesters reportedly took more extreme measures over the weekend. Shops have been torched, and footage of people burning and looting delivery trucks has been circulating online.
The protests have been centered on calls for democratic reform and an end to police brutality.
Mswati III is the last absolute monarch in Africa and one of only a handful left in the world. He has the power to appoint the nation's prime minister and Supreme and High Court judges and is constitutionally authorized to choose 20 of the Senate's 30 legislators and 10 of the House of Assembly's maximum 65 members.
The Eswatini government denies he has left the kingdom, writing on Twitter that it "assures the Nation that His Majesty King Mswati III is in the country & continues to lead in working with Government to advance the Kingdom's goals."
Mswati III has drawn criticism for his penchant for opulence as the head of a country with the 10th highest income inequality in the world, according to the Human Development Index, and where more than half of the population lives on less than US$2 per day. The monarch owns two private jets and has lavished his 15 wives with dozens of luxury cars.
The ruler changed the name of the kingdom from Swaziland to Eswatini on the 50th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain.