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It is becoming more apparent with each violent day that the sooner we can find the time to sit and talk to one another about the challenges we face, the sooner the blood will stop flowing onto the streets.

We can no longer afford to drift towards the polarisation of our society driven by diverging political views on how to address our social ills, when this could easily be harmonised through dialogue. The glaring consequence of this dilemma are the intensifying acts of violence being visited upon citizens and reciprocated on members of State security forces. The abduction and torture of the student union President Colani Maseko by the army, was uncalled for and ought to be condemned with the contempt it deserves. So should the shooting of the police officer and burning of the soldier’s house, which have been preceded by similar incidents on civilians, politicians, members of the armed forces and political activists. This has to stop. This is not us, this is not who we are and it is certainly not the way to fix the problems facing this country.

What we need right now is sound leadership that is geared towards finding peaceful solutions to the current impasse - urgently. Fighting fire with fire is definitely not one of them. Employers and worker representatives have recently shown us how at the Dialogue for Jobs 2022. What is stopping the rest of us from doing same? No peace can be attained by deploying soldiers to address civilian issues such as the students’ strike at the UNESWA Kwaluseni Campus. Military training is primarily geared towards the destruction of the enemy force’s military capacity.  No surprise that their deployment was characterised by the unnecessary use of force and violence that added another black page of brutality in the files against our security forces. Army officials have promised an investigation that could result in action being taken against the implicated soldiers. We will believe it when we see it. Such promises have been made in the past yet almost 12 months later, no action has been taken on the June/July 2021 killing of protesters.

Conversely, retaliation on the armed forces by civilians will only exacerbate the already volatile situation and this must be discouraged. Our leaders need to urgently invest their time and effort towards reuniting people and bridging the gap between the reactive security measures with proactive conflict prevention strategies. This is the only way in which trust and relative peace can be restored in this once peaceful country. A starting point would be to take stern action against this escalating brutality and send a strong message that Eswatini is a country that values human life and dignity.

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