Swaziland's King Mswati III signs gazette to rename country to eSwatini

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

On Thursday, the King of Swaziland, Mswati III, signed an official gazette to change the name of the country to eSwatini, which means "land of the Swazi" in the Swazi language. Per the gazette, a form of official government publication for important announcements, the absolute monarchy is to be referred to as "eSwatini" in all official documents including Swazi passports.

Mswati III in 2014.
Image: Amanda Lucidon / United States Department of State. (Reuse terms.)

The Gazette read, "In exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 64 (3) of the Constitution of Swaziland Act No. 1 of 2005, I, Mswati III, King and Ingwenyama of Eswatini makes the declaration that the name of the Kingdom of Swaziland is changed to Kingdom of Eswatini."

A month ago, on April 19, on the 50th anniversary of the country's independence from Britain, and King Mswati's 50th birthday, the ruler said in a speech that the country's name "was inherited from the British". The monarch has used "eSwatini" on various international stages including the United Nations's 2017 General Assembly and an African Union summit.

In the independence day speech, the king said, "If we are to give true meaning to our independence, time has come to give our country a name of its people. It must be said that this process is long overdue, particularly if you consider how other countries in the region localised their names soon after independence [...] I have the pleasure to present to you, on this historic day, a new name for the kingdom. Our country will now be called Kingdom of Eswatini". The nearby countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana all changed their names after attaining independence from Britain. Their previous names were Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Bechuanaland respectively.

Although the gazette was signed this week, it states "the notice shall be deemed to have come into force on April 19". At the April event, the monarch highlighted the similarity between the names of "Swaziland" and "Switzerland", a European nation. He said, "Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland".

The citizens are to be referred to as "Emaswati" (plural) or "Liswati" (singular).