Eswatini country profile

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Map of eSwatini

The kingdom of Eswatini is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies.

The king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life.

In 2018 the king announced that the country, hitherto known as Swaziland, would henceforth be called Eswatini, a move critics said was made without consultation and needed a constitutional change.

The country exports sugar, and many Swazis work in South Africa and send their earnings home.

According to UNICEF, Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. The HIV-Aids virus has killed countless Swazis and left thousands of orphans. Some 210,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV.


King: Mswati III

Image source, Getty Images

King Mswati III was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his long-serving father King Sobhuza II, who died at the age of 82.

The king, who is known as Ngweyama - "the lion" - often appears in public in traditional dress, and has many wives.

He rules by decree, and has been criticised for the heavy-handed treatment of opponents and for his demands on public money.

Protesters angered by economic decline have become increasingly vocal in demanding political reform.


Image source, Swazi Observer

State control of the media is strong, and journalists are liable to be prosecuted for criticising the government.

The government does not restrict access to the internet, but few Swazis can afford to go online.


Some key dates in Eswatini's history:

1894 - Britain and the Boer Republic of Transvaal jointly rule Swaziland.

1907 - Swaziland becomes a British High Commission territory.

1921 - King Sobhuza II succeeds to the throne,

1964 - Swaziland's first constitution enters into force, and King Sobhuza establishes a political party, the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM).

1968 - Swaziland is granted formal independence within the Commonwealth, and adopts a new constitution.

1973 - King Sobhuza suspends the constitution and bans political parties.

1986 - Prince Makhosetive is crowned King Mswati III.

2007 - Thousands protest in the commercial capital Manzini to press for democratic reforms.

2014 - Swaziland appears to be stemming the pace of new infections of HIV/Aids, the UN reports.

2018 April - King Mswati announces that the country is to change its name to Eswatini.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Swazi textile industry lost preferential access to US markets in 2015 because of human rights concerns

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