MDF Soldiers Safe in DRC Despite Anti-UN Protests – Maj Mlelemba
The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has described as unfortunate the ongoing protests by civilians against the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, commonly known as MONUSCO.
Civilians are protesting against soldiers deployed under the United Nations, of which Malawi is part of, arguing they have failed their job to keep peace in the country as there is no peace in the eastern part of the country.
MDF’s spokesperson Major Calvin Mlelemba says they are working with the DRC government forces and other parties to ensure peace is restored in the country.
Eastern DRC, where hundreds of rebel groups are fighting the government, has in the recent weeks been the centre of anti-UN protests, and recently two civilians were killed when the troops fired live ammunition.
Two UN soldiers, said to be from Tanzania, were accused of opening fire at a border post between Uganda and the DRC, killing the two and injuring 15, an incident which MONUSCO has described as unspeakable and irresponsible behavior. The officers were arrested.
Maj Mlelemba says Malawian troops in the DRC are safe but admitted that the situation is unstable.
He says the Malawian troops cannot just be withdrawn from the mission as they are operating under the UN.
“Our deployment was based on a United Nations Security Council resolution so withdrawal would also depend on a resolution that is to be made by the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
He added, “First of all, the United Nations is supposed to assess the situation and depending on the situation then there could be a decision to have the troops withdrawn from DRC.”
Security expert George Mhango concurred with Mlelemba, saying only the UN has the mandate to withdraw the troops but implored the UN to hold talks with the DRC government and the civilians to restore peace in the country.
“The situation in DRC is quite complicated and we need to understand the position that the citizens have taken because they expect the state to provide security so when the state is unable to provide security it becomes a problematic situation,” said Mhango.
He added, “Because Malawian troops are there because of the UN, there is little that the government can do if the UN has not moved any step or taken any decisive action in terms of what happens to the troops.”
The DRC government has also supported the call for the UN forces to leave. With about 16,300 uniformed personnel the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC is the largest in the world.
Malawi first contributed troops to a UN peacekeeping mission in 1994. Currently, it has over 900 uniformed personnel in different missions in Africa.