A Time to Act: Southern Defenders remain deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in eSwatini
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) calls on the authorities in eSwatini to exercise self-restraint, immediately release arrested Members of Parliament, respect the constitution, stop the egregious violations of human rights and targeting of human rights defenders, including women, children and social justice activists. Southern Defenders also urge the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the International Community to redouble its efforts to help the people of eSwatini inclusively resolve the multifaceted crisis engulfing the country.
Southern Defenders are closely monitoring the civic space and human rights situation in eSwatini and remain deeply concerned about the deployment of the military to quell the protests and the continued treatment of citizens as subjects with very limited rights and fundamental freedoms.
Since the beginning of this month, Southern Defenders has witnessed renewed pro-democracy protests, mainly led by school children who are demanding the immediate release of the two Members of Parliament and calling for democratic reforms in the country. Like before, the military and police were deployed and responded with some brutality which reportedly led to one civilian being shot and killed by the police, and many others, including young people, injured. Moreover, recent reports confirm the extended deployment of the military and police at several schools across the country, responding with further violence directed at protesting children.
During the protests that lasted for several weeks earlier this year, Southern Defenders wrote to SADC, highlighting the root cause of the continued instability and steps that should be taken as a matter of urgency to resolve the ongoing political unrest. These include:
- Absence of a constitutional democracy and a citizen centred, accountable governance system;
- Restricted civic space and opportunity for dialogue; and
- Worsening socio-economic conditions and rising inequalities as a result of a concentration of wealth and economic power in the hands of the few ruling elites and politically connected persons in eSwatini.
“When the situation began to cool down following the June civil unrest, we had hoped that the government of eSwatini would use the opportunity to initiate dialogue with its citizens, as required in a constitutional democracy,” said Professor Adriano Nuvunga, Deputy Chairperson of Southern Defenders. “Instead, it is regrettable that whenever ordinary Swazis exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as an instrument to voice their opinions, they are met with resistance and disproportionate use of force,” added Professor Nuvunga.
As Southern Defenders, we are concerned by the repeated failure of the government of Eswatini to hold a democratic and peaceful engagement, as requested by the citizens of the country. We call on the government to immediately call off the deployment of the army and unequivocally terminate the call for the shutdown of the internet. We also urge the government to protect the rights of children and respect its international obligations to ensure that they always act in the best interests of children. We also remind the government of eSwatini that it has a duty to protect the civil and political rights of citizens, as stated in the country’s Constitution, as well as the regional and international instruments which eSwatini has ratified. We also urge citizens who are exercising their rights to protest to do so peacefully and refrain from engaging in any form of violence.
Moreover, it is important for authorities to ensure that this does not happen again by swiftly exploring avenues to de-escalate the situation, including addressing the grievances of citizens, as required in a democratic society.
For further information, please contact Washington Katema, Southern Defenders Team Leader email@example.com OR +27 736202608