Protesters against Swaziland king clash with police
MBABANE, Swaziland - Security forces and protesters clashed in two towns yesterday during a week of planned protests demanding an end to Swaziland’s absolute monarchy.
About 1,000 university students started throwing stones at security forces, who reacted by firing tear gas and beating demonstrators in Mbabane, capital of the southern African mountain kingdom.
In eastern Siteke town, trade union leaders said police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed and peaceful protesters.
Muzi Mhlanga, general secretary of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, said the trouble started when police prevented visiting leaders of the Congress of South African Trade Unions from addressing hundreds of people at a demonstration.
The group said Swazi union leaders were beaten up and South African ones are being deported.
Swaziland is in a financial crisis fueled by corruption and declining customs revenue that has led to widespread shortages of medication.
The government is freezing civil servant salaries and cutting other costs including student allowances.
Protesting Swazis say the king should instead slash his lavish lifestyle and that of his 13 wives and all their children.
King Mswati III has ruled the nation of about 1.2 million since 1986, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa.