Lonely Planet Writer

Swaziland is no more – King changes his country’s name to Kingdom of eSwatini

When you are Africa’s last absolute monarch, it’s easy to do many things. And, as it turns out, one of them is abruptly changing the very name of your nation.

King Mswati III, Head of State of the Kingdom of Swaziland. Image by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

That is exactly was King Mswati III of Swaziland did this week, the surprise announcement being made during joint celebrations for his 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from British rule.

Malolotja Nature Reserve, Swaziland. Image by Heinrich van den Berg/Getty Images

The new name, which means ‘land of the Swazis’ has been bandied about before by the king of this small Southern African nation, most notably when he was addressing the UN General Assembly in 2017. The monarch feels that using eSwatini will reclaim the country’s pre-colonial moniker, as well as remove any confusion abroad between his homeland and Switzerland.

Emabutfo, Swazi king’s regiment during the Incwala ceremony, dance in honor of the king, Swaziland. Image by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Now that the official decree has been made, the wheels will need to be set in motion to change the numerous references to Swaziland within the country: license plates, internet domain names, government websites, police and military uniforms and, of course, the currency whose notes are emblazoned with the ‘Central Bank of Swaziland’. Internationally, the new name must also be officially registered with both the UN and Commonwealth. The announcement has been met by a mixed reaction at home, with some citizens feeling that the king should instead be dealing with pressing issues, such as the HIV/Aids epidemic, a struggling economy, low life expectancy and political reformation.

The Kingdom of eSwatini is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa, which is bordered to the south, west and north by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique. The country is home to 1.3 million people. King Mswati III has been in power since 1986, shortly after he turned 18. His predecessor and father, King Sobhuza II, ruled for a record-breaking 82 years and 254 days until his death in 1982.