Senior Chief Kabunduli of Nkhata Bay has asked government to withdraw soldiers from Viphya Plantation, saying their patrols are a mockery to national security.
Government deployed soldiers into the forest two years ago to flush out illegal loggers, and encroachers.
But Kabunduli yesterday said Malawi Defence Force (MDF) is supposed to protect the country from external foes instead of “fight unarmed citizens” in the hugely depleted forest.
He said: “Soldiers are there to fight wars against other countries. If other countries attack us, who will we use to defend the country? Are we going to send security guards with crabs to fight our enemies?
“There is need to empower the guards so that they get rid of encroachers. Those entrusted with protecting the trees should do their work,” he said.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka said the army will only leave when “we start to work together in protecting the forest”.
“The army is not just there to fight wars against other countries. During disasters, they help us save lives, construct bridges and do all activities civilians fail to do. We failed to protect the forest and it was only right to bring in the army,” said Msaka. n