October 13, 2021

Eswatini: Army Deployed as Learners Protest

Platoons of soldiers, along with a handful of police squadrons, have been deployed near schools around Eswatini.

The landlocked southern African nation – formerly known as Swaziland – has seen weeks of demonstrations, with groups calling for political reforms; as a result, school learners have been staying away from classes while also holding small protests for the past month.

Part of their demands include the release of two pro-democratic lawmakers who were arrested earlier this year, as well as the improvement of learning conditions and free education.

Lucky Lukhele, spokesperson for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, told an international French news agency on Monday, 11 October, that the army had been sent to “intimidate but that has not deterred the students.”

He also claims that 17 students – the youngest being seven-years-old – were arrested at a protest on the same day.

The presence of the army and police will “worsen the situation”, according to Mduduzi Gina, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress of Eswatini.

Army spokesperson, Tengetile Khumalo explained that the soldier’s deployment was not to make them an “enemy of the people”.

At least 27 people died in the clashes between police and demonstrators in the major cities of Manzini and Mbabane as frustrations over rising unemployment and crippling poverty erupted during June this year.

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