Swaziland to Eswatini
King Mswati III of Swaziland has announced that he is changing the name of the country to the Kingdom of Eswatini, according to a tweet from a BBC journalist.
Mswati, nicknamed “The Lion”, made this announcement during a celebration of both his 50th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence.
Swaziland, one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies, means “Land of the Swazi” people. The term “Swazi” originates from 19th century King Mswati II, who would extend and unify Swazi territory during his reign. The present boundaries of this small, landlocked country in southern Africa were drawn up in 1881 in the midst of the scramble for Africa.
The current King Mswati III rules by decree over his subjects. He is known for his many wives and his lavish lifestyle. Mswati is generally popular within Swaziland, though there has been increasing pressure, both locally and internationally, for Mswati to shift his country towards greater democracy. He has been criticized by some rights groups for surpassing human rights and freedoms.
The King’s recent announcement to rename the country has angered some in Swaziland, with some believing there are more important matters the king should focus on.
Though change from Swaziland to Eswatini was largely unexpected, Mswati has been using the latter name for years.