Bodies of six Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers killed in a rebel offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission are expected to be repatriated home on Wednesday.
MDF public information officer Major Paul Chiphwanya said yesterday the remains of the soldiers were currently in transit and would arrive through Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe.
In a telephone interview yesterday, he said: “The bodies left the DRC some two days ago and are currently in Entebbe, Uganda where the UN is expected to perform some procedures before the bodies are flown home. Tentatively, we expect that the bodies will arrive on Wednesday and MDF will accord them full military honours.”
The soldiers were part of an 850-member MDF contingent under the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (Monusco) to contain an escalation of armed resistance from rebel groups such as the M23, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Ugandan Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF).
Yesterday, the UN country office said they were not directly handling the repatriation of the bodies.
According to a bulletin posted on Monusco website www.monusco.unmissions.org/en dated November 15 2018, the Congolese armed forces (Fardc) and Monusco jointly planned offensive operations launched on November 13 in response to attacks on the civilian population in Beni area of North Kivu by rebels.
But the joint forces faced stiff resistance from ADF which, according to reports, led to the death of seven peacekeepers—six MDF troops and one Tanzanian soldier. Ten others were also wounded.
UN secretary general António Gutteres has since condemned the killing of the peacekeepers.
In a statement, the UN chief appealed to all armed groups to disarm immediately, saying their distabilising activities continue to escalate the suffering of the population; hence, complicating the response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak.
In a statement dated November 16, President Peter Mutharika urged the remaining MDF soldiers on the mission to continue their assignment with vigilance to honour their departed compatriots.
The country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima and leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera, in separate statements, have condoled the bereaved families.
Under the UN mission, troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi engage in direct combat against numerous armed groups.
In April 2015, six MDF troops survived an ambush when their convoy was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade.
On November 29 2015, another MDF soldier, staff sergeant Dyson Mayao, 50, was also killed in a rebel ambush in the DRC.
MDF has taken part in peacekeeping missions across the DRC and other parts of the continent since 1994. n