Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Commander General Vincent Nundwe has explained the involvement of MDF in internal security, saying the Army is legally mandated to ensure constitutional order.
Responding to a question during a news conference convened by Malawi Police Service Inspector General Rodney Jose at National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe on Monday, the Army chief said the MDF has acted as back up in shoring up security where police officers were overstretched.
Nundwe said the Constitution in Section 160 gives the MDF the mandate to provide expertise towards the maintenance of law and order over and above the other roles of defending the sovereignty of the country and the protection of its citizens against armed insurrection.
He said: “The Constitution allows us to provide expertise to civil authorities. So, part of it is how we deal with the police… We have something for them in case we observe there is anything which has created some gaps in terms of maintenance of law and order.”
Nundwe said the MDF and police management constantly consult, including over the demonstrations which have attracted “massive numbers” that overwhelm the police officers in their duty to maintain security in the country.
He said: “Because of those massive numbers, and the sporadic manoeuvres taking place, they [the police] may not be able to contain. When we come in, it is just to cover these gaps, since the way the demos are taking place now, the police have been overstretched.”
The General cited the 1993 scenario, when he was then a captain, the Army flushed out and disarmed the paramilitary Malawi Young Pioneers over a threat to constitutional order.
Nundwe’s sentiments comes against a background of MDF soldiers, including their armoured vehicles, patrolling streets during some of the demonstrations and the elections case.
During their course of duty, protesters have often cheered on and heralded the soldiers as heroes whenever they appear at volatile scenes. The scenes typically involve police officers apparently discharging tear gas indiscriminately and involved in running battles with the protesters.