The government of Eswatini has backed out of a pledge to join the US’s anti-China “Clean Network” program.

The pledge made Eswatini the first African nation to do so and was aimed at keeping Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications vendors out of the country and allied nations’ network infrastructure.

The pledge was entered on Jan 15 between Manqoba Khumalo, Eswatini’s acting minister of information, communications and technology, and then US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach under the Trump administration. However, late last week the South African nation with a population of about 1.2 million withdrew from the pledge.

A statement released by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology indicates that the withdrawal has been made due to legitimacy issues surrounding the approval process of the document.

“The ministry understands the paramount importance of telecommunications infrastructure security and fact-based and standards-based approach in addressing security challenges,” said Maxwell Mazwi Masuku, the principal secretary of the ministry.

“We also believe we should place equal emphasis on development and security for the best interest of the Kingdom of Eswatini,” he added.

The Clean Network initiative’s sole practical focus is to prevent equipment made by Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE from being used in 5G networks globally.