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Regional powerhouse South Africa have urged Eswatini’s security forces to practise ‘total restraint’ and Britain expressed concern following reports of a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Dissent has long been stifled in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, a small landlocked state previously known as Swaziland.
But demonstrations escalated radically this week as protesters defied a dusk-to-dawn curfew to take to the streets, looting and torching buildings linked to King Mswati III — and demanding immediate political reform.
The government in the southern African kingdom of 1.3 million people has since deployed the military to quell the protests, which it blames on ‘terrorists’.
Read Also: Eswatini Block Internet As Protests Continue
Unverified videos that have emerged on social media showed police and soldiers using force to disperse protesters and pulling people from homes and beating them up.
Sounds of gunshots rang across a neighbourhood in the capital Mbabane where a group of young men reportedly tried to loot a liquor store on Thursday, according to reporters.
Internet access has been limited, straining communication, while shops that were shuttered earlier this week started re-opening on Thursday next week.
Long queues formed outside supermarkets in Mbabane as residents restocked on groceries while gas stations had run out of petrol.
Foreign governments, including South Africa, Britain, and the United States, as well as global rights watchdogs, have expressed concern over the violence.
‘The South African government calls on the security forces to exercise total restraint and protect the lives and property of the people,’ foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said.
‘We are particularly concerned by reports of loss of life and destruction of properties,’ he said in a statement.
Britain’s Minister for Africa James Duddridge tweeted that ‘the escalation in violence, including looting, is deeply concerning’.
‘We call on all parties to engage constructively and restore calm,‘ he said.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK