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Those behind the political unrest may be down, but definitely not out. Not by a long shot!

Their quietness should not be mistaken for defeat. Instead, it shoud be cause for worry. What are they up to; what are they planning; what is their next move? Those shoud be the burning questions. To pronounce that the political unrest, which saw this country turning into ruins, has been conquered and, therefore, the country should party, is a humungous fallacy.

  When the United States, during a raid on a Pakistani compound in the early morning hours of May 2, 2011, killed Osama bin Laden – the man who became the global face of terror – they never threw a big bash. On the contrary, they reinforced their fight against terrorism. Then US President Barack Obama, in his statement after bin Laden’s death, said: “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.  There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.  We must - and we will - remain vigilant at home and abroad.” That is why 11 years later they killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy and successor as leader of al-Qaeda.  Al- Zawahiri was one of the masterminds of the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, and had continued to urge his followers to attack the United States.


Because terrorist attacks often occur without warning, the US, to this day, continues to strongly encourage its citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness when travelling. US Citizens are provided with general information regarding terrorist activities, political violence, and criminal activity that occur abroad, as well as specific recommendations on how to prepare for possible contingencies, receive information on breaking security events and ensure that travellers can be contacted in an emergency. But here in Eswatini, two months of relative calmness are broadly interpreted to mean a situation has been overcome. Government should guard against statements suggesting that the political unrest is over.

These statements are coming from people who have zero understanding of national security issues and they know zilch about counter-terrorism measures, let alone a basic understanding of how terrorists behave. How the unrest has been conquered when it is a known fact that there are some individuals who have gone into hiding after they got wind that they were being sought by law enforcement agencies for their roles in the violent insurrection. For all we know, these people have re-assembled somewhere, where they are being trained to stage other attacks. Also, the main players of the unrest - the funders - are still out there and, again, for all we know, they still have the means to finance as well as motives to pump more money into activities that could enable them to realise their main goal of regime change. The one mistake that some people in government and traditional structures are starting to make is to undermine these people behind the political unrest.

This is despite the country having been exposed for its lack of counter-terrorism strategies, except for the presence of an anti-terror legislation.
The country was literally caught pants down when the unrest peaked around June/July 2021 but even before these pants could be lifted knee high; there are individuals who are already shouting that they are well dressed. I would be surprised if the security apparatus would not be upset or unsettled by the statements being made by pure civilians suggesting that we are past the unrest. It would bode well for those in leadership positions not associated with national security to stop misreading the country’s political situation and making statements that are potentially inflammatory in the sense that they could incite perpetrators of violence to want to prove a point that they have not been conquered.

It is people with the capacity to interpret national security issues who should speak on such matters as touching on anything that threatens the physical well-being of the population or jeopardises the stability of the nation’s economy or institutions. The mandate to talk on national security issues should be safeguarded. In countries that take issues of national security seriously, even those that have the mandate to talk about these matters know that they have to tread carefully in anything they say publicly. Towards the end of last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defence minister a day after the former army general called for a halt to the planned overhaul of Israel’s judiciary that has fiercely divided the country.


Yoav Gallant, a former army general and a senior member of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party had called for a pause in the controversial legislation until after April’s Independence Day holidays, citing the rift’s threat to Israel’s national security. This is a person who more than likely had all the information to back his position but he was sacked nonetheless. In Eswatini, I don’t believe there is any government official or politician who has unparalleled intelligence information that suggests the country is out of the political unrest and faces no such threat any longer.

Where then do such statements emanate from? Does any government official or politician know how the country is ready to deal with a resurgence of the political unrest? in 2021, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who produced the first television interview of bin Laden in 1997, published ‘The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden’ (Simon & Schuster), a biography of the terror leader that combines information gleaned from more than 20 years of Bergen’s journalism with hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of government and personal bin Laden documents that became available only after his death and was asked whether the US should be worried that there is another bin Laden in the making right now. This is how he responded: “We are much better positioned to counter another bin Laden now. There were only 16 people on the US ‘no-fly’ list on 9/11. Around the time that bin Laden died there were more than 40 000, and another one million people were on a list that ensured they would be put into secondary screening if they boarded a U.S.-bound flight.

In 2001, there were 32 task forces where multiple law enforcement agencies worked together to build terrorism cases. That number had more than tripled by the time bin Laden was killed.” Now that’s information that suggests America is ready to deal with any terrorist threat!  The 9/11 attacks in the US also gave birth to the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Centre and the Transportation Security Administration.


The US intelligence budget also grew dramatically after 9/11, tripling to around US$70 billion by the time the CIA tracked down bin Laden in Abbottabad. In our case, whoever wants to tell us that the political unrest has been conquered should be ready to back up that statement with such facts, nothing less. The Prime Minister, as the minister responsible for police should, together with the minister responsible for national security, set boundaries for politicians and fellow Cabinet colleagues when it comes to matters of national security because of their sensitivity. Eswatini is supposed to have national security or intelligence analysts who have processes in place to determine security threats and communicate their findings to the relevant command.

These analysts have the expertise in identifying risks to our national security and an unrivaled ability to mitigate them. There are apparatuses that are responsible for putting national security and emergency response efforts in place, to allow for the identifying and thwarting of any natural or human-made disruptions to peace, safety and stability. Not mere rhetoric. This being election and appointments year, people should avoid making statements that will jeopardise national security and put the lives of emaSwati at risk just because they want to score political points with the powers that be.
Those behind the unrest should definitely be excited by such statements for they now know that the enemy has its guard down and only has wine and champagne glasses up, toasting to a non-existent victory.