Swaziland king changes country’s name to Kingdom of Eswatini

Renaming announced during celebrations marking 50 years of independence from British colonial rule.

King Mswati III of Swaziland addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York
Mswati III became king in 1986, aged 18 [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

The king of Swaziland has announced that his country’s name has changed to Eswatini.

The declaration by King Mswati III on Thursday was made during celebrations marking the monarch’s birthday as well as 50 years of independence from British colonial rule.

“I would like to announce that Swaziland will now revert to its original name,” the king said at a packed sports stadium in Manzini, the country’s second city, AFP news agency reported.

“African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonised. So from now on the country will be officially be known as the Kingdom of Eswatini,” he added.

The tiny landlocked nation in southern Africa gained full independence in 1968, after being a British protectorate since the early 1900s. But unlike some countries, it did not change its name.

Meaning “place of the Swazi”, Eswatini is the Swazi language name for the country.

The name Swaziland angered some citizens as it is a mix of Swazi and English.

The move has been mooted for several years, with legislators considering the issue in 2015. Mswati III has used the new name in previous official speeches.

Absolute monarchy

The king, who was crowned in 1986 aged 18, rules by decree in a country widely seen as Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Since 1973, Swaziland’s monarchy has banned political parties from participating in elections, although they are allowed to exist.

To run for political office, candidates stand as independents and if elected, they must be approved by the king in order to become a member of parliament.

The country, which has a population of about 1.3 million people, suffers the highest HIV rate in the world, with 27 percent of adults infected.

The name change could mean that the country’s constitution is re-written, and could bring changes for the Royal Swaziland Police Force, the Swaziland Defence Force and the University of Swaziland.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies