By Our Reporter
President Peter Mutharika has said Malawi Defence Force (MDF) troops will continue fighting for peace in the world despite losing six soldiers who were part of UN peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) supporting an offensive by local forces against an Islamist group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Mutharika, who is also Commander-In-Chief of the MDF, said this at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe as he paid his last respects and conveyed his condolences to the families of the six soldiers who were killed in DRC.
The plane carrying the fallen soldiers’ bodies touched down at Kamuzu International Airport in Malawi capital at exactly 11:58 local time. Each of the six caskets was draped in the UN flag.
The Malawi leader said the killing of its soldier will never distract Malawi’s support towards peacekeeping missions.
“Malawi is a peace-loving country, where we train our soldiers to be instruments of peace and as a peaceful country we strive to join others to bring peace where there is war, love where there are hatred and hope where there is despair,” said Mutharika.
He described the six soldiers as “brave heroes” who sacrificed themselves to fight for peace and liberty.
Mutharika said Malawi will never be frightened by such coward acts by the rebels.
“Though our sacrifice is painful, neither death nor enemies will stop us from being who we are, which is warriors our peace both in the nation and all over the world,” he said in a sombre mood.
Mutharika commended the Malawi military for being an exemplary peacekeeping force wherever it goes.
UN Resident Coordinator for Malawi Maria Jose Torres Macho expressed deep sadness over the deaths of the soldiers, describing them as brave individuals that dedicated their talents, skills, and life to support peacekeeping missions in the world.
“We will ensure that the names of the fallen soldiers are always remembered as they did not die in vain but sacrificed their lives for peace,” said Macho.
Macho urged the Congolese government to continue taking action to bring the attackers to justice.
In his remarks, Commander of MDF, General Griffin Supuni Phiri praised the fallen soldiers for their heroism saying they were full of life and had so much to offer to the nation and their families.
“All those still fighting in DRC should continue to soldier on and never retreat for the greater good of humanity,” he said.
One of the widows Rachel Chitete who has a two-week-old baby lamented that her husband was the breadwinner of the family and she will have difficulties to take care of the family as a single parent.
The six soldiers are Lt Aubrey Kachemwe, Corporal Jonathan Kapichira, Private Chauncey Chitete, Sergeant Steve Kambalame, Private Simplex Kafelakaso and Private Benjamin Songela.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack saying the killing of peacekeepers was unacceptable and constituted to war crimes.
The ADF is responsible for a series of attacks on civilians in recent months.
Eastern DRC has been plagued by banditry and armed insurrections for more than two decades, since the fall of the military ruler Mobutu Sese Seko, but there has been a surge in violence in the past year.
Much of the unrest has been blamed on the ADF, which analysts say is trying to develop links with other jihadists in Africa and beyond
Malawi contributes to the longstanding 17,000-member peacekeeping force in violence-prone parts of the DRC.
Countries contributing troops to UN peacekeeping missions are well paid for sending their personnel – about $1,410 (£1,017) per month per soldier.
In recent years, the ADF has tried to align itself with better-known extremist groups, adopting a flag resembling that of Isis and using language popularised by al-Qaida.