Twenty-seven people died last week during pro-democracy protests in the southern African kingdom of Eswatini, a minister told AFP on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, yes, 27 people lost their lives,” Commerce Minister Manqoba Khumalo said in a phone interview, expressing regret that force had to be used to break up the protests. “It was not intended, but… the nature of the attacks that were happening was such that in some instances force had to be used, and in some instances gunfire had to be exchanged, and there were casualties,” he said. “But in some cases people were trapped in buildings when those buildings were burned… This is very unfortunate.” He said most of the violence occurred between Monday and Thursday last week. Eswatini, previously called Swaziland, is a tiny landlocked state of 1.3 million people, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique. Protestors last week ramped up demands for political reform in the country — Africa’s last absolute monarchy. The government deployed the army to reinforce the police to break up the demonstrations.