Protest as Eswatini activist a

King Mswati III (C) arrives at the annual ‘Umhlanga’, or Reed Dance ceremony, at the Swazi Royal Residence, in Mbabane, Swaziland or eSwatini, 02 September 2018. On the main day of the eight-day event, the young women gather in their groups according to where they live and present the reeds to the Queen Mother and King Mswati III as a rite of passage. EPA-EFE/YESHIEL PANCHIA

Protest as Eswatini activist arrested for destroying king’s photo

A student leader was arrested Monday in Eswatini for destroying photos of King Mswati III, prompting protests in two cities.

Protest as Eswatini activist a

King Mswati III (C) arrives at the annual ‘Umhlanga’, or Reed Dance ceremony, at the Swazi Royal Residence, in Mbabane, Swaziland or eSwatini, 02 September 2018. On the main day of the eight-day event, the young women gather in their groups according to where they live and present the reeds to the Queen Mother and King Mswati III as a rite of passage. EPA-EFE/YESHIEL PANCHIA

Colani Maseko, head of the national student union, is accused of removing pictures of the king from a university campus and destroying them, police said.

“Colani Maseko has been charged with sedition and malicious damage to property,” police spokeswoman Nosipho Mnguni told reporters.

Shortly after his arrest, small protests broke out in the commercial centre Manzini and the capital Mbabane. Riot police fired teargas to break them up, an AFP reporter witnessed.

The University of Eswatini closed all three of its campuses.

Maseko has vocally demanded the release of pro-democracy lawmakers Mduduzi Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, who were arrested in June amid a wave of anti-government protests.

Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, is the last absolute monarchy in Africa.

‘HOPE FOR CHANGE’

King Mswati enjoys flaunting his wealth and showering his 15 wives with lavish gifts.

Yet he rules over one of the poorest countries in the world, where nearly two-thirds of its 1.2 million inhabitants live in poverty.

Successive protests over several months left 46 people dead last year.

Neighbouring countries are trying to mediate between the palace and the pro-democracy forces, but so far have yet to even find agreement on a venue for talks.

© Agence France-Presse

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