Protests have swept Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, prompting the government to impose tight restrictions on the population.
The restrictions, partly justified by the authorities on the grounds of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, came after several days of unrest.
Protesters have clashed with police, asking for democratic reforms.
“We have witnessed violence in several parts of the country perpetuated by an unruly crowd where people have been attacked, property destroyed, businesses looted and public roads blocked,” said a statement by Prime Minister Temba N Masuku.
“Unfortunately, the protests we are seeing of late have been hijacked by criminal elements; such cannot be acceptable under any circumstances,” the statement continued, adding that security forces were now on the ground.
The new restrictions include school closures and a curfew.
According to unconfirmed reports, the mobile internet was also shut off.
The small country of 1.2 million people, which was formerly known as Swaziland, has been swept by a third wave of coronavirus infections.
According to official figures, almost 20,000 infections have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic and 678 deaths.
Eswatini is ruled by King Mswati III, who has been criticized for his decadent lifestyle, which is in stark contrast to the population’s poverty. Political parties have been banned in the country since 1973.