eSwatini

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Swaziland absolute Monarch King Mswati III (L) poses with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (R) after awarding her with the Order of the Elephant during her visit to the Kingdom of Swaziland at an official ceremony on April 18, 2018 in Lozitha Palace, Manzini.

Larry Madowo

BBC Africa business editor

Why Taiwan, not China, is the economic partner of choice for the nation formerly known as Swaziland.

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Map of eSwatini

Provides an overview, basic facts and key events for this small southern African kingdom

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Swaziland in no-show at China-Africa summit

Mswati III
AFP
King Mswati III is one of the few absolute monarchs in the world

The only country without a representative at the China-Africa summit in Beijing is Swaziland, recently renamed eSawtini.

The kingdom, ruled by Mswati III, is the only country on the continent to reject pressure from China to drop diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China considers as part of it.

China has denied putting pressure on the kingdom to switch sides.

Its special envoy for Africa, Xu Jinghu, said: “On this issue we won’t exert any pressure. We’ll wait for the time to be right... I believe this day will come sooner or later,” Ms Xu said.

Taiwan has vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behaviour.

The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies.

The king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life.

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China and Taiwan row over eSwatini

BBC World Service

Swaziland absolute Monarch King Mswati III (L) bestows the Order of the Elephant to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (R) during her visit to the Kingdom of Swaziland
Getty Images
Taiwan's president (right) visited Swaziland earlier this year

A diplomatic tussle is under way over the tiny southern African nation of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland.

The country is Taiwan's last remaining African ally.

China - which doesn't allow countries to have official ties with both itself and Taiwan - has said it wants eSwatini to establish diplomatic links with Beijing.

But Taiwan says its relationship with the African nation is "extremely firm". Officials from eSwatini agree, saying there are no plans to switch allegiance.

Taiwan, which China considers its own territory, has a dwindling number of official partners -just 17 at present. On Tuesday, El Salvador pledged support for Beijing.

A map showing the location of eSwatini in southern Africa
BBC

Challenge to Swaziland name change

BBC World Service

A pro-democracy activist in Swaziland has challenged the king's decision to change the country's name.

In April, King Mswati III, one of the world's last-remaining absolute monarchs, unexpectedly announced he was changing the country's official name to the Kingdom of eSwatini.

The activist, Thulani Maseko, argued in papers submitted to the High Court that the decision was invalid because there had been no prior public consultation.

He said the decision was whimsical and a waste of money in a country with serious health problems.

The government has not yet responded to the challenge.

King Mswati with other African monarchs
AFP
King Mswati III, centre, has ruled the country since 1986

Swaziland defiant in face of Chinese pressure to drop Taiwan

King Mswati III of Swaziland addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York 20/04/2018
Reuters
Taiwan says it has received assurances that King Mswati III of Swaziland will visit soon

Taiwan has lost all but one African ally - and now China has urged Swaziland to drop ties with Taipei ahead of a summit of African leaders.

In May, the self-ruled Taiwan lost ally Burkina Faso, which chose to instead re-establish ties with Beijing, leaving Swaziland - which has announced it is changing its name to eSwatini - the region's sole African diplomatic ally.

And China's foreign ministry is now pushing for Swaziland to follow suit.

"We of course welcome Swaziland to join the family of China-Africa cooperation at an early date, and hope that by the time the China-Africa cooperation forum Beijing summit happens, we can have a happy picture of the whole family," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, according to news agency Reuters.

"Of course, this hinges upon Swaziland's own decision."

Swaziland told Reuters on Friday it will maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, despite Chinese pressure.

China will be hosting the summit from Beijing in September. And Chinese leaders are expected to give out loan packages for the African continent.