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King of Swaziland changes his country’s name to eSwatini

Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of Swaziland, has changed his country’s name to eSwatini.

The new name, which the king announced at celebrations to announce the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain and his own 50th birthday, means “land of the Swazis” in the local language.

Speaking at a stadium in the second city of Manzini, he said he was reverting to the name the country had before it was colonised, and wanted something people could identify with.

The name Swaziland is said to anger some citizens because it is a mix of Swazi and English.

“I would like to announce that Swaziland will now revert to its original name,” he said, dressed in a red and black military uniform.

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

Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Nyasaland became Malawi, and Bechuanaland became Botswana.

King Mswati III at the United Nations in 2015
King Mswati III at the United Nations in 2015

The name of Swazliland had caused confusion, the king added. “Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland,” he said.

He has made several references to the Kingdom of eSwatini in recent years – for example during an address to the UN General Assembly in 2017.

Politicians have been considering a name change since 2015.

The king’s impoverished nation, which is a member of the Commonwealth, has the highest rate in the world of HIV/AIDS, with 27% of adults infected.

Most of his subjects make a meagre living from agriculture, often cultivating sugar.

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