SADC calls extraordinary summit to address Eswatini crisis

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Eswatini’s King Mswati has finally agreed to attend the extraordinary summit of the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 21 July, after keeping the organisers guessing for weeks about his presence, sources said.

The Department of International Relations and Security Cooperation announced the summit on Thursday. It did not say what was on the agenda, but sources told Daily Maverick the main item would be the proposed national political dialogue in Eswatini. They said it had been unclear for some time if Mswati and his government would attend, but that this had now been confirmed.

The summit will be chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa currently chairs SADC’s security organ. The other two current members of the organ troika are Namibia and Botswana and so their presidents are also scheduled to attend.

SADC intervened in the crisis in the country last year after unprecedented violent protests in June which left scores of protesters dead and much infrastructure destroyed or damaged. After another flare-up of violence in October, Ramaphosa visited Eswatini in November to meet Mswati and announced afterwards that the king had agreed to launch a national political dialogue.

But then a long delay ensued and in the meanwhile, the political and security climate has deteriorated, with violent crackdowns by security forces on protesters and more recently, violent retaliation against police officers, including the burning of their homes — apparently by some pro-democracy forces.

There are deep differences in Eswatini about the structure of a national dialogue. Mswati and his government appear to be envisaging it as taking place in the “Sibaya” format, in other words as a traditional gathering where the monarch addresses his people. But the democratic opposition says this would be a monologue rather than a dialogue. They point to the Sibaya which Mswati called after the violence last June where he delivered a speech and then departed without taking questions from the Swazi people.

(Daily Maverick )

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