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Swaziland Is Now Called eSwatini

Swaziland, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is to now be called eSwatini, the country’s King Mswati III announced on Thursday. Like its former name of Swaziland, the name eSwatini also means “land of the Swazi” - except now in its native Swati instead of English.

Moving Away From a Colonial Past

Swaziland gained independence from Britain in 1968. The announcement of the name change, which occurred on the country’s 50th anniversary of independence, is intended to better reflect the country’s unique identity and to shed remnants of colonialism.

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy. King Mswati III, who is the son of the long-reigning King Sobhuza II, has ruled the country since his crowning in 1986. In the past, he had hinted at his intentions of a name change for Swaziland. The international community’s tendency to confuse the name Swaziland with Switzerland was one of the motivating factors behind the name change. It is unclear as of now whether the change in identity will lead to a new constitution for the country.

How Often Do Countries Change Their Names?

Throughout the decolonization of Africa in the mid-twentieth century, it was common for a country to change its name at the time of gaining independence. Examples of this include Zimbabwe, who shed the name Rhodesia in 1980, and Burkina Faso, whose name changed from Upper Volta in 1984.

Other examples of countries who have undergone name changes in recent history include Myanmar (whose named changed from Burma in 1989) and the Czech Republic (whose official geographic short name was changed to Czechia in 2016).

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Rachel Cribby is a writer and editor based in Montreal. She has a background in creative writing and urban studies.

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