You might need to update your maps of Africa, as King Mswati III, has renamed Swaziland. It is now the Kingdom of eSwatini, which means “land of the Swazis” in Swazi. The Kingdom of eSwatini was the name of the African nation before the British colonised it in the early 1900s.
His Majesty announced the change on Wednesday during celebrations for both his birthday and the 50th anniversary of gaining independence from the British in 1968.
The King explained that the name Swaziland had caused confusion around the world as the African nation had been referred to as Switzerland on more than one occasion.
Mswati is Africa’s last reigning absolute monarch and has referred to the country as eSwatini several times in the past. Notably, the King used the name when he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2017.
According to the BBC’s Southern African Correspondent, Nomsa Maseko, the name change has angered some in the kingdom “who believe the king should focus more on the nation’s sluggish economy.”
eSwatini, where most people follow traditional ways of life, is smaller than the size of the US state of New Jersey and has the world’s highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDs. The life expectancy is only 54 and 60 years for men and women, respectively. The kingdom has been criticised in the past for human rights violations, and this caused the United States to revoke preferential access for textile exporters in 2015. The media is also heavily controlled with journalists liable to be persecuted for criticism of the Swazi government.
King Mswati III was born on 19 April 1968 and came to the throne at age 18 in 1986 after his father’s death four years prior; as he was only 14 at the time, two of his father’s wives ruled as regent until he came of age. The King practises polygamy and has 15 wives and 23 children.