The effects of colonialism have trickled down over the years to permeate every facet of the lives of Africans. Almost every part of being Africa in contemporary society is influenced by Western standards. One of the long-lasting effects of colonialism in Africa has been the issue of borders and the names of African countries.
So, King Mswati III, being obviously an absolute monarch, has decided to change the name of Swaziland to the Kingdom of eSwatini. Not many can do this. But Mswati can, because his word is decree in the small Southern African country. Maximizing on the euphoria of the country's 50th anniversary of their independence, Mswati took the chance to make the announcement.
Mswati gave us the signal before this. He always referred to Swaziland 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 even said that whenever he went abroad people would refer to Swaziland as Switzerland. Let's say that was derogatory to him. Or to any Swazi for that matter, really.
The name eSwatini means "land of the Swazis". It was symbolic that he made the announcement when the country was celebrating it's freedom from British colonial rule. And so the argument has been, "Why keep a colonial name?" A counter-argument has been, "Why focus on such matters when there is an economy that needs urgent attention, and a deplorable human rights sitaution?"
So, do we have real Pan-Africanism here or it's just one of those episodes where we get to see the excesses of an absolute monarchy? Mswati himself said something interesting.
"I would like to announce that Swaziland will now revert to its original name. African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonised. So from now on the country will be officially be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini," the king said at a packed sports stadium in Manzini, the country's second city, AFP news agency reported.
The name Swaziland has been a bone of contention for some, since it is a mix of both English and Swazi. Legislators once mulled the move to change the name of the country in 2015.
Whether it is Pan-Africanism for real, or just the hand of an absolute monarchy doing whatever it wants, it is an important point to note that many African countries still have colonial names.
It's something that needs to be pondered on. But again, leaders also have to focus on bringing something substantial to the lives of their citizens.