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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

From Swaziland to eSwatini, by royal decree

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Why is Swaziland’s king renaming his country?

And is this just a diversionary tactic?

The Economist explains

by D.K. Nairobi

THE King of Swaziland, Mswati III, has a problem: “Whenever we go abroad,” he says, “people refer to us as Switzerland.”

So on April 18th, at a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain, the king announced that he was changing Swaziland’s name to eSwatini. (As an absolute monarch he can make such decisions.)

With its lower-case “e,” this new name might seem at first glance to be an attempt to rebrand one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies as something a little more modern.

But the new name in fact simply means “Land of the Swazis.”

Whether many people do in fact confuse Swaziland with Switzerland is unclear. Both are gorgeous mountainous countries with small populations.

Both are landlocked and surrounded by bigger powers. But the differences are perhaps more striking.

As well as being ruled by a man with fifteen wives, Swaziland is a poor country with the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

Some 26% of the adult population is infected. That in turn contributes to a life expectancy at birth of 58 years, the 12th-worst in the world.

Changing the name from Swaziland to eSwatini strikes many as a distraction from bigger issues.

Shared from The Economist

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