A prominent human rights lawyer was murdered over the weekend in Eswatini in yet another brutal killing that highlights the perilous nature of human rights activism in dictatorial countries.
Thulani Maseko, an alumnus of Makerere University School of Law, was gunned down on Saturday, 21st January, 2023 night by unknown hitmen while at his home located in Luhleko, 50 Kilometres away from Eswatini Capital, Mbabane as he spent time with his family.
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“Assassins shot him through the window while he was inside (the) house with his family. Details are still scant (and) owing to the trauma his family members are undergoing, they are not yet ready to speak” Sikelela Dlamini, an Opposition Spokesperson said, according to AFP.
Thulani Maseko was a leading human rights attorney and activist in Eswatini – a country governed by an absolute monarch – King Mswati III and in 2018 he sued the King for changing the country’s name from Swaziland to Eswatini by decree.
Mr Maseko alleged the change was done unconstitutionally and at the time of his death, he was awaiting his court battle with the King, AFP reported.
Earlier in 2014, Thulani Maseko had been jailed along a News Paper editor for Contempt of Court in relation to published articles that were critical of the government and the Judiciary in Eswatini.
Thulani Maseko’s murder came hours after King Mswati III scoffed at activists challenging his rule.
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According to AFP, King Mswati III’s rule is the last absolute monarch in Africa.
King Mswati III had said that; “people should not shed tears and complain about mercenaries killing them.”
“These people started the violence first but when the state institutes a crackdown on them for their actions, they make a lot of noise blaming King Mswati for bringing in mercenaries” Mswati reportedly said.
According to Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), an “open forum for everyone interested in seeing Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy evolve into a freely democractic society,” King Mswati III hired mercenaries mainly white Afrikaners from neighboring South Africa, to help Eswatini’s security forces suppress rising opposition to his oppressive regime, the AFP reported.
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However, in a statement released on Sunday, 22nd January, 2023, the Eswatini government “disassociated” itself from this “heinous” act, warning the Public especially social media users against speculation.
” Lawyer Thulani Maseko’s demise is a loss to the Nation and his foot prints as a human rights lawyer are there as proof of his contribution to the Country. He will surely be missed.” Alpheous Nxumalo, the Government spokesperson said, adding:
“Government also warns against speculations and insinuations peddled particularly on social media platforms in instances like these… Such speculations are dangerous as they hamper investigations and take attention away from the real criminals.”
King Mswati III, who has ruled since 1986, under Swaziland law can dissolve Parliament, dissolve the Government itself, appoint and dismiss Judges as well as command the Police and Army, AFP reports.
Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.
Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.