TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following a report yesterday that King Mswati III of Eswatini had fled as pro-democratic protests spiraled out of control, the Taiwanese government has joined the Eswatini authorities in insisting that the autocrat remains in the southern African country.
Jeremy H.S. Liang (梁洪昇), the Taiwanese ambassador to Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, shot down the rumor of Mswati III's departure, which was reported by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, according to CNA. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) condemned the spread of misinformation by those who would "bring anxiety" to the country.
However, as of the time of publication, the monarch had not appeared in public or issued a statement on the unrest.
MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) pointed to a statement issued by the Eswatini government on Tuesday (June 29) stating that Mswati III had in fact remained and is "working with the Government to advance the Kingdom's goals." Ou added that the ministry supports the maintenance of "social stability in a peaceful and rational manner" in Eswatini, which is the only African country with which Taiwan enjoys formal ties.
Protests centered on democratic reform reportedly turned violent in several parts of the diminutive nation over the weekend, with footage surfacing online of burning shops and vehicles and appearing to show people looting delivery trucks. A nationwide curfew has since been imposed and is in effect from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all except "essential workers" carrying permits.
Taiwan's embassy in Mbabane says its staff and their families are safe and that it will provide any necessary assistance to Taiwanese in the kingdom, according to MOFA.
The last absolute monarch in Africa, Mswati III has the authority to appoint the nation's prime minister, Supreme and High Court judges, and a majority of the Senate's legislators. Over the past few days, many protesters have called for the democratic selection of the prime minister and an end to police brutality.
In a statement on Tuesday, Acting Prime Minister Themba N. Masuku claimed the demonstrations had been "hijacked by criminal elements" and called for de-escalation, stating that the curfew was implemented to "minimise unnecessary movement and ensure the safety and security of [the Eswatini people] and residents." Security forces have also been deployed, he said.
Mswati III has been criticized both at home and abroad for his penchant for opulence while most of his country lives in poverty. Eswatini has the 10th highest income inequality in the world, according to the Human Development Index, and more than half of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.