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King of Swaziland renames country the ‘Kingdom of eSwatini’

By royal decree, Swaziland, one of Africa’s last absolute monarchies, will henceforth be known as the ‘Kingdom of eSwatini’

Swaziland, now the Kingdom of eSwatini, which means ‘place of the Swazi’, gained independence in 1968, having been a British protectorate since 1894. King Mswati III has ruled the small country with its 1 million inhabitants since 1986. He announced that this name-changing royal decree marked 50 years of independence from British rule.

At the Independence Day celebrations, which also happened to be the king’s 50th birthday and was held at a sports stadium in Manzini, King Mswati III said, “I would like to announce that Swaziland will now revert to its original name. Upon gaining their independence, many African countries reverted to their ancient names from before they were colonised. So, from now on, the country will officially be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini.”

The Kingdom of eSwatini will join other southern African countries that changed their name after independence, with Bechuanaland becoming Botswana, Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe and Nyasaland became Malawi.

What are the implications?

Even though the Swazi king has used the new name in previous official speeches, for example at the UN General Assembly in 2017 and at the state opening of the country’s parliament in 2014, the move had been mooted for years.

Lawmakers only began considering the issue in 2015, mainly because the name change could mean an overhaul of the country’s constitution, and changes for the Royal Swaziland Police Force, the Swaziland Defence Force and the University of Swaziland. Also affected are the country’s airline, Swaziland Airlink, and the country’s currency, which bears the name of the Central Bank of Swaziland.

Read: Sea Fever: Swaziland’s quest for maritime power

The country will also have to register its new name with international bodies such as the UN and the Commonwealth, of which it is a member.

Furthermore, as reported by BBC, practicalities like Internet domain names and number plates – both of which feature the name Swaziland – may also need to be changed, as will the uniforms used by Swazi sporting figures in international competitions. Until now, they have sported the letters ‘SWZ’ or the name ‘Swaziland’.

The move has met with mixed feelings by a citizenry that suffers the highest HIV rate in the world and a sluggish economy while its monarchy exists in luxury and false prosperity.

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