SWAZILAND: Calm returns to university

The University of Swaziland, forced to close last Tuesday when pro-democratic protests rocked the tiny landlocked Southern African kingdom, has now reopened.

Ambrose Gama, deputy registrar of corporate affairs, told University World News that the situation had calmed by Thursday. He said some students had reported being intimidated by others to participate in two days of countrywide protests.

"We felt there was need to send all students home during the demonstrations but everything is back to normal now," said Gama, who is based at the most affected Kwaluseni campus. The University of Swaziland, the country's only university, has four campuses.

A report in the Swazi Observer said some students abandoned class to participate in a mass protest march held in Manzini by unions and teachers. The newspaper was told that police had prevented students from leaving the Kwaluseni campus, and a mini-confrontation had ensued.

After reports of intimidation and threats of violence by a group of students against those who continued attending classes, the university decided to temporarily close the campus. Other operations continued.

In a memorandum earlier, registrar Sipho Vilakati had warned students against joining the action: "During the period of the proposed protest march, students are expected to attend classes as normal. Demonstrations will not be allowed on any campus," he said.

Swaziland, a nation of 1.2 million people, is the only absolute monarchy in Sub-Saharan Africa, ruled by 42-year-old King Mswati III. Lawmakers are banned from belonging to any political party and the country is under emergency rule.

A Facebook campaign had urged a national uprising starting on 12 April.

Labour unions had to call off a third day of protests after a police crackdown. Union leaders and journalists were detained, and police used teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons to break up pro-democracy marches.