King Mswati III of Swaziland is an absolute monarch, so what he says goes. But over the course of his 32-year rule, he has mostly gained international attention for how he has spent the royal treasury. While his populace is one of the poorest in the world, King Mswati III has fleets of luxury vehicles, two private planes, and dozens of wives.
But the king’s powers are not limitless. A new constitution, signed by Mswati in 2005, reiterates that Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, but it bars ruling by decree.
That makes his most recent pronouncement – uttered from a stage where he and international dignitaries and thousands of dancers celebrated both his and his kingdom’s 50th birthdays – a little complicated.
“We no longer shall be called Swaziland from today forward,” the Associated Press quoted the king as having said. Instead, Swaziland would go the way of Lesotho and Botswana, naming itself in its local language, after its main ethnic group: eSwatini, or “land of the Swati” in the siSwati language that is predominant in the landlocked, southern African kingdom.
Whether the name will stick with locals is another matter. More important still – for the king’s pride at least – is whether the United Nations will adopt the new name, which could lead companies like Google to follow.
The last country to officially change its name was Czechia, formerly known (and certainly still known to most people) as the Czech Republic.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Max Bearak