Eswatini’s government denied King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, fled his country as pro-democracy protests turned violent.
“King Mswati III is in the country and continues to lead in working with government to advance the kingdom’s goal,” acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a statement released on Twitter.
Demonstrators set fire to several shops in Matsapha town in central Eswatini, according to South African Broadcasting Corp. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters who are demanding democracy in the country that has banned political parties since the early 1970s.
Eswatini, which was previously known as Swaziland until 2018, has been led by King Mswati III since 1986. The king in the nation of about 1.3 million people controls parliament and appoints ministers in the landlocked country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique. Eswatini exports sugar, soft-drink concentrates and cotton.