Two pro-democracy MPs in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, were found guilty on Thursday of terrorism and murder in connection with the wave of anti-regime protests that rocked the country in 2021.
The two men, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, were tried by a court in the capital Mbabane almost two years after their arrest in July 2021.
Charged with inciting demonstrations, they had pleaded not guilty.
“I find the accused guilty of all the charges against them”, said Judge Mumcy Dlamini. They face up to 20 years in prison. Their sentences will be handed down “at a date to be determined”, the judge continued.
Mr Mabuza and Mr Dube were arrested in the midst of a wave of demonstrations calling for democratic reforms. These protests were severely repressed by the regime’s police and dozens of protesters were killed.
The two MPs had in particular called for reform of the complex system of elections in which political parties, although theoretically authorised, are not allowed to participate. Parliamentary elections are due to be held on 29 September in the country formerly known as Swaziland.
However, these elections are unlikely to change the political landscape in the southern African country of 1.2 million inhabitants, ruled since 1986 by King Mswati III, who is criticised for his extravagant lifestyle and regularly accused of rights violations.
Elections in Eswatini are held in such a way that no one seriously challenges the monarch’s power.
The King appoints ministers, controls Parliament, the police and the army. He also appoints judges.