Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Botswana NGOs condemn assassination of eSwatini lawyer

Botswana’s civil society has joined 50 others in the region and endorsed a statement by the Southern African defenders condemning the killing of eSwatini human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.

Among these NGOs are Ditshwanelo and BOCONGO. The statement states that while the government of Eswatini issued a statement condemning the murder of Maseko and its intention to investigate, we assert that, given the political environment, only an independent investigation can ensure that those responsible for the assassination of Maseko and many others brutally injured and killed are brought to justice and their families rightfully compensated.

“We, therefore, call on SADC, the African Union, and the international community to hold the leadership of King Mswati III accountable for the violence that continues to be meted against the people of Eswatini, merely for advocating for their recognized fundamental human rights, including political participation,” reads the statement. It states that “We are gravely concerned that the killing of Maseko signifies an increasingly dangerous deterioration of the political crisis in Eswatini.”

The statement says it is terrifying to observe the monarch clamp down on the people it is meant to serve and protect. It notes that Eswatini as a member of SADC and signatory to its Treaty is bound to uphold Article 4 of the Treaty which explicitly states that the principles guiding the acts of its members are human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Article 5 of the Treaty further requires all states to promote and defend peace and security.

“We remind Eswatini that as a member state of SADC, its government should comply with the principles and guidelines to which the region is bound. The state of affairs in Eswatini is a clear reflection of the failure of the country’s leadership to defend and maintain peace, security and transparency for its citizens. SADC cannot continue to stand by and watch,” the statement says.

The NGOs also called on Eswatini to “Release all political prisoners and refrain from the excessive use of force to disperse protestors and refrain from the arbitrary arrest, detention, harassment or intimidation of pro-democracy activists and others expressing opposing views.”

The government was urged to, “Immediately end the violent rhetoric against pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders. Immediately allow for an inclusive and genuine political dialogue to usher in a democratic dispensation in Eswatini.”

Turning to SADC, the statement called on the regional body to “Immediately set up a task force or oversight mechanism to ensure a swift, thorough and independent investigation into the arbitrary killing of Thulani Maseko and all other pro-democracy activists in Eswatini, that have taken place since 2021.”

It also calls on SADC to “Hold King Mswati III and the government of Eswatini accountable for the ongoing gross violations of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force against protesters, abductions and extra-judicial killings of activists.”

SADC was also urged to robustly engage with King Mswati III and his government, opposition and civil society leaders, and other relevant stakeholders in and outside Eswatini to urgently broker an end to the ongoing political crisis and the ushering in of democratic reforms.

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