Twenty-one Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers and one officer recently withdrawn from a peace keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are facing charges of misconduct, it has been established.
In a telephone interview yesterday, MDF spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya said the 21 soldiers are on trial, but could not mention the charges, saying: “It is an exclusive matter so we can’t disclose charges.”
Defence counsel for 18 of the soldiers, Ralph Mhone, also confirmed the trial but did not state the charges, saying he was yet to know about them.
The trial under a martial court is expected to start today with High Court Judge Chifundo Kachale as the advocate judge, according to High Court and Supreme Court Registrar Agnes Patemba.
According to information we have sourced, the soldiers are alleged to have escaped the battle field, leaving their colleagues behind.
The officer was leading a group of about 135 soldiers that was part of a force that went to clear a rebel camp, sources said.
They are answering various charges of misconduct in the battle in DRC which include loss of weapon and cowardice for abandoning their post during the recent rebel attack which left some soldiers dead and others missing.
Last year, six MDF soldiers died in a rebel ambush in DRC where they were part of a United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (UN-FIB) peacekeeping mission.
The six were part of an 850-member MDF contingent mandated by the UN under the FIB, alongside troops from South Africa and Tanzania, to neutralise armed groups in North Kivu province. Under the UN-FIB, troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi engage in direct combat against numerous armed groups—notably the M-23, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Ugandan Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF) and other smaller groups—that have been destabilising eastern DRC for at least 15 years.