Eswatini’s King Mswati III has reportedly fled the kingdom after pro-democracy protests escalated on Monday following the government’s ban on marches.

The Communist Party of Swaziland on Tuesday morning confirmed on its Facebook account the monarch boarded his private jet out of the country after protesters clashed violently with the army on Monday.

On Monday evening, Eswatini’s leading chain store, OK Foods, located in Matsapha, and other outlets were set on fire as pro-democracy protests turned into chaos, bringing the first threat on a monarch who has ruled the landlocked southern Africa country with a free hand.

The country has been facing protests for several days in at least 10 different places, forcing police to use teargas and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators.

The Eswatini leader rules the country as an absolute monarch and appoints the prime minister, ministers, judges and civil servants.

The protesters are calling for political reforms and want to elect their own Prime Minister.

Political parties have been banned in the country since 1973.

“We demand multi-party democracy now,” protester Melusi Dlamini told News24. “The time for the royal system characterised by dictatorship is over.”

The latest protests were sparked by a decree banning the delivery of petitions.

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