ITUC-Africa Protests Against the Dissolution of Parliament and the Call for New Elections Without Resolving the People’s Will for Democracy

Keywords : Eswatini Democracy Human and trade union rights Protest letters Eswatini

Dear Prime Minister,

The International Trade Union Confederation - Africa (ITUC-Africa, an organization dedicated to promoting democracy, human rights, and social justice in the African region, is deeply concerned about the recent developments in the Kingdom of Eswatini, particularly the dissolution of parliament and the upcoming elections, which lack any prospects of democratic representation and accountability.

ITUC-Africa is concerned that there continued to be an atmosphere of suppression of participatory democracy, civil liberties, rule of law and inclusive dialogue in Eswatini. Despite promises to engage in a dialogue following the mass protests for democracy in 2021, it is evident that these pledges have been ignored, and meaningful political reforms remain elusive. Instead, we have witnessed the situation where the judiciary is being used to subject workers, activists and politicians who advocate for genuine and inclusive political reform to prosecution on absurd and sundry charges.

Mr Prime Minister, we are equally worried that impunity is steadily gaining ground and free reign in Eswatini. Our worries step from the lack of investigation, prosecution and sanction of security forces, personnel and their superiors who openly and tacitly ordered, encouraged and deployed lethal violence against armless protesters in 2021.

Mr Prime Minister, the above concerns are sufficient to rob the forthcoming elections of optimism and expectation of credibility. Moreso, Political parties remain banned, and candidates must navigate an exclusionary two-round process to gain approval at the chiefdom level, limiting any opportunities for reform-minded politicians to gain significant representation. Also, the fact that the king continues to retain extensive powers to control the legislative and executive branches, speaks strongly to the doubts being nursed that the proposed election may be a mere façade aimed at upholding the pretence of democracy to the outside world.

To inject good faith and credibility into the electoral process, we want to suggest the following quick and short-term measures that your government should genuinely undertake:

1. Release all political prisoners without conditions.
2. Commit to holding a genuine, open and inclusive national dialogue involving trade unions, a wide range of civil society actors, including political parties’ representatives where political reform can be openly discussed and considered.
3. Initiate an independent and impartial inquiry into all killings of activists and protesters, including those that occurred during the 2021 democracy protests and the killing of Thulani Maseko. Perpetrators must be brought to justice, and victims’ families deserve answers and closure.

We strongly urge you to act swiftly and decisively to address these critical issues. We stand ready and available to provide technical and institutional support that would be required by your government to ensure effective implementation of the proposed steps.

Yours sincerely,
Kwasi Adu-Amankwah General Secretary

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