Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers have returned from their year-long United Nations (UN) peace-keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) unscathed unlike in the previous mission where six died.
MDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Paul Chiphwanya said in an interview yesterday that the 850-strong MDF contingent serving as a UN peace-keeping mission under the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC was returning home in phases.
He said: “So far, two groups have come back. The third is expected to arrive on 6 January 2021 and the last group on 21 January 2021.
“Normal rotation is conducted after 12 months, but these soldiers have stayed in the mission for 14 months because the time they were to rotate, we had Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“We never had any encounter where we lost a soldier or where one got injured.”
During a previous mission in 2018, six MDF soldiers under the FIB died in the wake of a fierce encounter with enemy fire in the DRC. Several others sustained injuries while two were later also declared dead after several months of search and rescue operations yielded nothing in the mission area.
On how the returning soldiers are being handled in the face of the Covid-19 precautionary measures, Chiphwanya said: “The first group arrived on 1 December 2020 and the second on 19 December 2020.
“Before departure in DRC, they are tested for Covid-19 and quarantined. When they arrive in Malawi, they all go for self-isolation.”
Reacting to the 100 percent survival rate from the challenging DRC mission, UN resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres commended Malawi tor its contributions towards the UN peace-keeping operations across the world.
She said: “Malawi is the 25th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peace-keeping. Since 1994, Malawi has contributed military and police personnel to UN peace-keeping operations in Abyei, the DRC, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan [Darfur], South Sudan and Western Sahara.
“Across the UN peace-keeping operations, peace-keepers from Malawi have helped to save lives, create conditions for better livelihoods on vulnerable communities and set conflict-ridden areas on the road to recovery.”
Under the FIB, the Malawi troops operate alongside other peace-keepers from Tanzania and South Africa and are charged with the mission of neutralising armed groups in DRC’s volatile north Kivu through joint combat missions from time to time.