Africa’s last absolute monarch has marked his country’s 50th birthday with a rather unconventional gift: a different name. During Golden Jubilee celebrations Thursday, King Mswati III announced that from this point henceforth, the land formerly known as Swaziland is now to be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini.
The king made his declaration to a crowded stadium in Manzini, noting the name change is intended to shed vestiges of the country’s colonial past. For much of the 20th century, the tiny, landlocked nation was under British administration, only gaining its independence in a nonviolent transfer of power in 1968.
“African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonised,” he told the crowd, according to Agence France-Presse. “So from now on, the country will be officially be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini.”
As the news service notes, eSwatini means “place of the Swazi” in the Swazi language — effectively the same meaning as its predecessor, except without relying on the mashup of Swazi and English that composes the name Swaziland.
The king had already used the name in public statements he had made personally in recent years, the BBC points out. For instance, in his remarks to the United Nations last fall, he referred to his country as the Kingdom of eSwatini without explanation.
“The Kingdom of eSwatini is committed to peace and a decent life for all. We
are also firm believers in the principle of consultative decision-making,” he told the U.N. General Assembly. “This involves a transparent and all-inclusive undertaking that grants every citizen an opportunity to voice their views in order to constructively contribute to the social, economic, cultural and political development of the country.”