The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has completed training 850 peacekeepers destined for eastern Democratic Republic of Congo this month.
The 11th Malawi Battalion, code-named ‘Malabatt 11’, leaves for the war-torn country after undergoing two-month combat drills supported by British and American instructors.
The troops will replace a battle group that came under intense enemy fire during ‘Operation Usalama’ in November to dislodge armed rebels who were terrorising civilians and disrupting vital response to the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1 700 people within a year.
The rebels killed six Malawian soldiers, including Private Chancy Chitete, who received the United Nations (UN) highest peacekeeping medal for singlehandedly rescuing a badly wounded Tanzanian peacekeeper, Ali Khamis Omary, from enemy fire, sustaining fatal injuries in the process.
Closing the pre-deployment training in Chikala Forest Reserve in Machinga on Friday, deputy MDF commander Clement Namangale asked the DRC-bound group to emulate the heroism and courage personified by Chitete’s group as they fly out to protect rights of vulnerable populations haunted by armed insurgents.
He pointed out that based on past performances, the troops have “very big shoes to fill”.
Namangale said the continued deployment of the uniformed personnel to the tricky war zone symbolises Malawi’s unwavering commitment to the UN Charter to ensure there is peace in southern Africa and beyond.
US acting ambassador Andrew Herrup commended Malawi for dedicating almost a tenth of its troops to UN peacekeeping missions and affirmed America’s commitment to supporting MDF’s international contributions to global peace.
“I have no doubt that your disciplined actions over the next year will uphold Malabatt’s reputation as one of the UN’s most reliable peacekeeping units as you courageously protect the defenceless abroad,” he said.
During the training, US contributed army trainers and donated military equipment worth $1.3 million (K977.6 million) through the Global Peace Operations Initiative.
The US Army instructors worked closely with the British Peace Support Team to drill Malawian soldiers selected for what UK acting high commissioner Gary Leslie termed a fascinating yet dangerous mission.
Amid political instability and the Ebola emergency, the envoy asked the peacekeepers to conduct themselves with exquisite manners, humility and good grace to turn the local population into their strongest allies and source of intelligence.
“What you are being asked to do by your country is not an easy task. It will require courage and determination to go out and face the belligerents head on. But have confidence in your training. I have no doubt you will serve your country well,” he said.
Malawi is part of the UN stabilisation mission in DRC along with Tanzania and South Africa.