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'Dialogue Will Happen When Violence Ends'-Eswatini's Authorities

FILE -Human Rights activists take to the streets of Kenya's capital, Nairobi to protest the killing of Thulani Maseko, a prominent human rights lawyer from Eswatini, January 30, 2023.

Authorities in the kingdom of Eswatini Tuesday said they are interested in holding a national dialogue with local pro-democracy groups to address violence in the nation but added that the talks will not happen until the turmoil settles.

Government representatives in Eswatini Tuesday said they echo sentiments passed last week by leaders of the Southern African Development Community Troika Organ on Politics, Defense and Security, who called on the southern African kingdom to hold nationwide talks with pro-democracy groups as a way of addressing violence that has wreaked havoc for almost a year.

Alpheous Nxumalo, Eswatini’s national spokesperson said it is pivotal that nationwide talks be held but added that this cannot happen amid the ongoing violence.

“There is a need to hold a national dialogue, but this has been withheld by violence which started in 2021 and there is absolutely no possibility of holding a national dialogue under a violent situation or circumstance where members of the public are shot for wearing traditional attire and members of the security forces are shot at random,” said Nxumalo.

Nxumalo also addressed allegations by opposition members and activists who have accused Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini’s administration of instigating turmoil and taking the lives of human rights activists such as Thulani Maseko.

“The government has never initiated violence in any shape or form and neither did the government assassinate Thulani Maseko,” said the national spokesperson.

“Government is ready and was ready a long time ago to hold a national dialogue, but the intimidation that was unleashed by these terrorists who are sponsored by foreign forces has created an atmosphere that was and still remains not conducive to hold a national dialogue,” he added.

Busi Mayisela, the leader of the Swazis First Democratic Front party said the spate of killings in Eswatini is of regional concern.

“The peace in the country is deteriorating and SADC will now be forced to either do something or force the government to have the dialogue with pro-democracy organizations,” said Mayisela.

“Even government is aware that if they fail to have the dialogue, this will end up turning into a war and I do not think anyone is wishing for a war because Swaziland is a small country which is already suffering,” she added.