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Students burn portrait of King Mswati III as Swazliand’s democracy protests continue

STUDENTS burnt a portrait of Swaziland’s absolutist monarch King Mswati III on Sunday night as pro-democracy demonstrations showed no sign of subsiding.

They gathered at the Luyengo campus of the University of Eswatini — the new name for the landlocked southern African nation — demanding Mswati’s abdication.

A picture of the monarch was set alight to loud cheers as students danced around the fire, singing songs and raising slogans calling for freedom.

“Long live the revolution,” said the Communist Party of Swaziland, which has played a leading role in the protests that have swept the country since last summer.

“Students from Luyengo … burnt the dictator’s picture as they don’t recognise him as a legitimate ruler,” one democracy activist said, adding: “Mswati has blood on his hands and must be arrested.”

Demonstrations started last July, initially calling for greater democracy and an end to a ban on political parties that has been in place since 1973, when King Sobhuza II suspended the constitution and seized absolute power.

The state responded brutally, with King Mswati III instigating a shoot-to-kill policy in order to crush the protest movement.

More than 100 people have been killed, 500 injured and thousands arrested in a major crackdown by security forces.

But the largely youth-led protests have continued to press demands for Mswati to stand down.

The Communist Party issued a rallying cry for “a revolutionary people’s war” at the beginning of January and has also called for the creation of a people’s militia to overthrow the regime.

Arguing the case for a republic, general secretary Kenneth Kunene said on Saturday: “If we don’t treat the transition and the fight for democracy now as an urgent question, we will be insensitive to these questions.”

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