Eswatini’s King Mswati III has reportedly fled the kingdom after pro-democracy protests escalated on Monday.
On Monday evening, Eswatini’s leading chain store, OK Foods, located in Matsapha, and other outlets were set on fire as pro-democracy protests turned into chaos, bringing the first threat on a monarch who has ruled the landlocked southern Africa country with as he wishes.
The country has been facing protests for several days in at least 10 different places, forcing police to use teargas and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators leading to injuries. His whereabouts however remain unknown.
King Mswati III is criticized for his lavish lifestyle and alleged human rights violations. He is a well-known polygamist with at least 15 wives and 23 children.
The Eswatini leader rules the country as an absolute monarch and appoints the prime minister, ministers, judges and civil servants.
The protesters are calling for political reforms and want to elect their own Prime Minister. Political parties have been banned in the country since 1973.
“We demand multi-party democracy now,” protester Melusi Dlamini told News24. “The time for the royal system characterised by dictatorship is over.”
The government’s ban on protests was instituted last Thursday with the National Police Commissioner giving out the warning that breaches of the ban would be met with zero tolerance.