16 November 2018

Malawi Soldiers' Death Toll Rise to 6 in DRC - Tributes Paid for Incredibly Brave Men

Photo: The Citizen
14 bodies of Tanzanian peacekeeper who were killed in the DR Congo arrived at Terminal 1 of the Julius Nyerere International Airport (file photo).

Two more Malawian peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been killed, as the death toll reached six, with other nursing life threatening injuries, the Malawi Defence Force said on Friday.

MDF public information officer Paul Chiphwanya said apart from the four that were announced on Thursday to have been killed, two more were confirmed dead.

"I can confirm that the death toll has reached to six," said Chiphwanya. "'It has been incredibly sad

He indentified the fallen soldiers as Lieutenant Aubrey Kachemwe, 35, from Moyale Barracks in Mzuzu and Corporal Jonathan Kapichiri, 36, from Parachute Battalion in Salima.

Meanwhile, the tributes have poured in including political leaders describing it "tragic news."

The first thing that leapt out when the Malawian military released the first four men's identities was their ages. Chauncy Chitete and Benjamin Nsongela (from Moyale Barracks in Mzuzu were just 29, while Simplex Taferakoso of Changalume Barracks in Zomba was 31 and Steven Kambalame was 38 from Malawi Armed Forces College (Mafco) in Salima.

They were killed after a rebel ambush of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group blamed for a series of attacks.

President Peter Mutharika, who is also Commander-In-Chief of the MDF, expressed sorrow and paid tribute to the fallen soldiers.

Government spokesman Henry Mussa, who is also Minister of Information, Communication and Technology said: "President Mutharika is deeply saddened by the appalling news that Malawi soldiers have been killed in DRC. His heart goes out to their families."

British High Commissioner to Malawi Holly Tett said in a tweet that it is "very sad" news about the deaths of "four brave Malawian soldiers" deployed to DRC under Force Intervention Brigade protecting peace.

"These soldiers contributed to Malawi's reputation for professionalism, discipline and courage in DRC. Condolences to their families and Malawi," she said.

Vice-President Saulos Chilima through his UTM party issued a statement which said they join the MDF and the people of Malawi in mourning "our fallen heroes and honouring their selfless sacrifice."

The statement issued by UTM spokesman Joseph Chidanti Malunga reads: "The values of freedom, peace, democracy and security for all that these fallen officers championed and gave their lives for are characterised by all of us. For their dedication and sacrifice, these officers will always be remembered.

UTM said it will join the family and friends of the fallen soldiers in the "solemn duty" of receiving their bodies back home and in giving them heroes welcome.

Leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera, who is also president of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), described the fallen soldiers as "patriots."

"Though as a nation we have been stripped of a group of irreplaceable young professionals and been left with a gap that cannot be refilled, we honour them for the service they rendered every time they left their homes for months at a time to keep ours a land of peace and extend that peace to war-torn places and peoples beyond our borders: They were patriots," said Chakwera.

Former president Bakili Muluzi has also send his deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to the bereaved families, as well as to the Commander and all officers of the Malawi Defence Force for the tragic loss.

"Family, friends and loved ones, as well as those who served alongside them, who feel the greatest pain and I offer them my deepest and heartfelt condolences, thoughts and prayers," said Muluzi.

Another former president Joyce Banda said she is "deeply shocked, touched and saddened" by the loss of lives of the Malawi military personnel.

"They laid down their lives selflessly so that other could have peace/ May God comfort the bereaved families in this trying time."

The MDF spokesman said the military "has lost courageous, hardworking and disciplined soldiers who were always ready to serve to ensure that peace prevails."

The remains of the Malawian soldiers would be repatriated when the United Nations had completed procedures after the incident, according to MDF spokesman.

Chiphwanya said the families of the fallen soldiers have been informed about their fate.

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