The eSwatini government’s violent response to peaceful pro-democracy protests poses a threat to the fundamental right to life and infringes on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

We are deeply concerned by the senseless police brutality and state-sanctioned violence in eSwatini. The eSwatini government’s violent response to peaceful pro-democracy protests poses a threat to the fundamental right to life and infringes on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which Swaziland is a signatory.

Protests erupted in May 2021 following the unexplained death of Thabani Nkomonye, a final year law student. Protestors are calling for reforms within the government. The eSwatini military and police have responded to the protests with excessive violence resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. 

The use of brutal force against peaceful protestors has become part of the fabric of the African political realm.  Both in the past and present, many African governments have resorted to the use of violence to discourage citizens from seeking political reform and stable democracies.

The Kingdom of eSwatini is a member of the United Nations and the African Union. It has ratified numerous UN Human Rights Conventions thereby making binding international commitments to adhere to the standards laid down in these documents. Therefore, it is prudent that African leaders take a clear stance on this human rights violation and ensure that the eSwatini government refrains from the use of excessive force against protestors and hold it accountable for the brazen violation of human rights.

“The situation is very volatile at the moment, we need the international community to speak out against the human rights violations taking place in eSwatini”, said Rev. Bafana Khumalo, Co-Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice. “The people of eSwatini have tried on numerous occasions to meaningfully engage with the ruling elite, however many a times, these efforts are met with violent repression. We urge the international stakeholders to intervene before the situation deteriorates further.”

We appeal to the AU and all Governments within Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) to be proactive and condemn these repressive acts in the strongest terms and call on the government of Eswatini to respect the rights of its citizens. In a time when the world is also facing a global pandemic, if left unchecked, the violence will severely exacerbate gender inequality putting women and girls at a disadvantage.

We also note the reports on the government of eSwatini shutting down/disrupting internet access across the country. This is a major infringement on the people of eSwatini’s rights to not only freely express themselves but to also engage in discussions around democracy. 

In this time of popular uprisings, it is critical that the government prioritizes hearing the grievances of its populations and doing everything in its power to protect the freedoms and lives of citizens.

For media enquiries, contact:

  1. Bafana Khumalo, Co-Chairperson, Global MenEngage Alliance: bafana@genderjustice.org.za or +27-82-578-4479
  2. Mpiwa Mangwiro, Regional Campaigns & Advocacy Specialist, Sonke Gender Justice, Secretariat of MenEngage Africa Alliance: mpiwa@genderjustice.org.za or +27-82-480-2223.
  3. Given Sigauqwe, CSI Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, given@genderjustice.org.zaor 0739882870.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Sonke is a South African-based non-profit organisation working throughout Africa. We believe women and men, girls and boys can work together to resist patriarchy, advocate for gender justice, and achieve gender transformation.

MenEngage Africa is part of a global alliance of organisations that engage men and boys to achieve gender equality, promote health, reduce violence and to question and address the structural barriers to achieving gender equality. The alliance consists of 22 country networks spread across East, West, Central and Southern Africa. MEA members work collectively toward advancing gender justice, human rights and social justice in key thematic areas including Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), gender-based violence (GBV) & HIV prevention, Child Rights and Positive Parenting and in promoting peace on the continent.

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