Swaziland Ditches Colonial-Era Name, Renames Itself 'eSwatini'

Swaziland Ditches Colonial-Era Name, Renames Itself 'eSwatini'

Swaziland Ditches Colonial-Era Name, Renames Itself 'eSwatini'

Unlike many other former British dominions in Africa, Swaziland did not change its name after gaining independence, in 1968.

Africa's last absolute monarch, King Mswati III announced the changes at celebrations marking 50 years of Swazi independence from Britain and his 50th birthday.

"African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonized", the king, clad in a red military uniform, said, according to AFP.

King Mswati III reckons the name of Swaziland has caused confusion, saying that people "refer to us as Switzerland".

The new name is eSwatini, meaning "place of the Swazi".

It is not immediately clear how much it will cost the landlocked African country to make the name change. Especially so for the 52% of the country who are under the age of 20, many of them orphans of one of the world's worst HIV/Aids pandemics.

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Although he is respected and fairly popular in Kingdom of eSwatini, his policies and lavish lifestyle have led to local protests and worldwide criticism.

The ruler of the small African nation since 1986, made the announcement on the 50th anniversary of Swaziland's independence.

The announcement of the name change, which occurred on the country's 50th anniversary of independence, is meant to better reflect the country's unique identity and to shed remnants of colonialism. The country is home to more than 1.4 million people.

Why is the name Swaziland controversial? He has been using the name for some time, including when he addressed the United Nations general assembly a year ago.

Speaking to a stadium audience east of the capital on Wednesday, Mswati described the change as reverting back to the country's original name before colonization by the British, Reuters reports. Bechuanaland took the name Botswana, Basutoland renamed itself Lesotho, and Nyasaland became Malawi. Nearly two-thirds of Swazis, meanwhile, live on less than $1.25 a day in a country which has the world's highest rate of HIV/AIDS. "Whenever we go overseas, people refer to us as Switzerland", he said.

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