King Mswati III of Swaziland announced on Wednesday that he was renaming the country “the Kingdom of eSwatini” to mark 50 years since independence from British rule.
The monarch announced the official change in a stadium during celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence which also doubled as the king’s 50th birthday.
The new name, eSwatini, means “land of the Swazis”. The change was unexpected, but King Mswati has been referring to Swaziland for years as eSwatini.
It was the name the king used when he addressed the UN general assembly in 2017 and at the state opening of the country’s parliament in 2014.
He explained that the name had caused some confusion, saying: “Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland.”
He said the move was also necessary to stop the country from being confused with Switzerland.
Meaning ‘place of the Swazi’, eSwatini is the Swazi language name for the tiny nation landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique.
Unlike some countries, Swaziland did not change its name when it gained independence in 1968 after being a British protectorate for more than 60 years.
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