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Unicef 'deeply concerned' about children caught up in Eswatini unrest

09 July 2021 - 19:54 By paul ash
Two journalists covering protests in Eswatini were allegedly forced to delete material off their phones and cameras. Stock photo.
Two journalists covering protests in Eswatini were allegedly forced to delete material off their phones and cameras. Stock photo.

The UN agency tasked with providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide said it was worried about the safety of children in Eswatini after a child was killed and another injured on Wednesday.

Mohamed Malick Fall, Unicef's Eastern and Southern Africa regional director, said the agency was “deeply concerned” about the safety and wellbeing of children in the kingdom after days of continuing violence in which a high school pupil was killed and another injured.

The pupil was fatally shot in Hhohho while the other child was reportedly struck by a stray bullet while out shopping in Manzini.

“Even one child caught up in violence is a child too many,” Fall said.

The agency urged that children's rights were respected, “including the right to safety, expression, an education and basic services”, Fall said.

The unrest, which started on June 29, has resulted in damage to 14 schools and others looted.

Meanwhile, schools — which had been shut during the pandemic — would remain closed due to the unrest.

A 6pm-5am curfew has been implemented in an attempt to curb the protests.

Protests against the country's monarchy have been building for some months and have seen often violent demonstrations in Manzini — the country's economic hub — and in Mbabane, the capital.

Protesters have been met with police brutality and deadly force from security services, Global Citizen reported. Residents interview by Human Rights Watch also alleged that the protesters have responded with violence.

Activists say more than 20 people have been killed by security forces since the unrest began, France 24 reported.

However the toll could not be confirmed and government officials were not responding to press enquiries. 

Much of the anger is directed at King Mswati III who, campaigners say, has resisted meaningful democratic reforms, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, there has been widespread speculation that the king — Africa's last serving monarch who has been on the throne for 35 years — has fled the country to SA.

Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku denied the rumours, however, saying that the king was still in the country and continued “to advance the kingdom's goals”, Reuters reported. 

The king's lifestyle has attracted criticism in the past as he and his 15 wives enjoy a lavish lifestyle in a number of palaces funded by the state even as the country of 1.1m people battles economic hardships.



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