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Early history until the emergence of Eswatini

Based on archaeological findings, we can assume that the kingdom of Eswatini, surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, was already inhabited 10,000 years ago. The population of today's Eswatini migrated to the area in the 18th century and probably originated in the area now known as Maputo (southern Mozambique). The Nguni people had settled here and the Dlamini family, led by King Ngwane III, had founded a royal house. Influenced by wars and conflicts with other tribes, the king was forced to move southwards with his people. On their way south, they came up against the powerful Zulu people and, under the leadership of the next king Sobhuza I, were forced to settle north of the Zulu empire in the Ezulwini valley. This place still performs an important ceremonial and ritual function in Eswatini. After King Sobhuza, King Mswati ascended the throne, and by the end of the 18th century the state of Eswatini was a reality.

British rule

In the mid-19th century, Eswatini sought protection from the Zulu by the British and South Africa. In 1866, the border with the Transvaal was established. Two years later, however, Eswatini was annexed by the British. The Convention of Pretoria (1881) recognised Eswatini's independence, but four years later (1885) the British again tried to take control of the area. From 1894 to 1903, Eswatini fell under Afrikaner rule. After the Peasant Wars, the British took control and Eswatini became a British protectorate. On 6 September 1968, Eswatini actually became independent.


The transition to independence went off without a hitch. Eswatini inherited a constitution largely based on that of the British. Following the 1972 elections, King Sobhusa II, in what is known as "The King's coup", ruled that the constitution did not adequately reflect Swazi culture and, by decree in 1973, abrogated it. In doing so, he placed all power in the hands of the King. Political parties were banned. King Sobhuza was succeeded in 1986 by his son King Mswati III, who continued the same system. In March 2006, the revised constitution was reinstated, but the King still rules the country with a Council of Ministers and a small group of advisors, in which the Royal Family plays an important role.

The ban on political parties and the absolute power of the King led to fierce (student) protests in the mid-1990s, when the parliament and the houses of the Deputy Prime Minister and the head of the university were burnt down in 1995.

21th century

At the end of 2005, a number of "attacks" with Molotov cocktails took place on government buildings and the homes of senior officials. There were no casualties. Regular strikes, domestic protests by pressure groups combined with international pressure increased the pressure on the king to introduce democratic reforms and a new constitution. On 8 March 2006, a new constitution came into force, rendering inoperative the 1973 decree. Other constitutional changes include the right of women to own land and a provision on the role of the three state powers. Despite this, reforms under the new constitution have been kept to a minimum. Political parties are still illegal, the king can annul all decisions of parliament and he has a major hand in the appointment of members of the senate and parliament. He also appoints the country's judges. On 12 April 2006, 33 years after the ban on political parties was imposed in 1973, there was another major demonstration against the political situation in the country. In addition, the international community continues to put pressure on the government to allow political (opposition) parties. In February 2008, the opposition decided to boycott the upcoming elections because only one party was allowed to participate. The Prime Minister (appointed by the King) has been Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini since 2008.

In September 2009, opposition leader Mario Masuku was released from prison. He said he would continue to fight for democracy. In 2010 and 2011, Eswatini faced a recession and political unrest. In November 2012, Ellinah Wamukoya became the first woman bishop of the Anglican Church in Eswatini. In September 2013, parliamentary elections were held without political parties, only individual candidates could stand. Eswatini is the country with the highest number of HIV infections. In 2016, the entire population will be tested for HIV and AIDS; assistance will be provided by Stop Aids Now, the Postal Code Lottery and the Bill Clinton Foundation. King MSWATI III renamed the country from Eswatini to Eswatini in April 2018. Since 19 July 2021, Cleopas Dlamini has been Prime Minister.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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