LILONGWE, November 3, 2017: President Peter Mutharika says Malawi is in tragedy following the death of 21 Malawi Defense Force recruits and instructors in a horrific accident that happened Thursday at Luwawa in Mzimba.
Remains of 15 of the soldiers who were from the central and southern parts of Malawi were on Friday taken to the MDF headquarters Kamuzu Barracks in Lilongwe en route to their respective homes for burial.
Most of the deceased were recruits who had just finished their final exercises and maneuvers and were heading back to Malawi Armed Forces College (MAFCO) in Salima where they were expected to undergo a pass out ceremony in three weeks’ time before being deployed to designated units.
A somber mood engulfed the Wilson Court at the barracks. Tears from wailing mothers, brothers and sisters were a sorry sight to see as no one could comprehend what they were witnessing.
Families and friends of the fallen soldiers on the day experienced the worst nightmare of their lives when instead of witnessing the scheduled passing out ceremony for their children; the world crushed onto them as they collected the remains of their children for burial, together with all the hopes they had in them.
The seemingly heartbroken Mutharika, who is also commander in chief of the MDF said the families of the deceased, the MDF and the country as a whole has experienced a tragedy not easy to digest.
“Losing one person brings about huge grievances, but losing 21 people at the same time is difficult to comprehend. We hear of grave disasters that befall other countries every day. But never in my life did I think of this happening in Malawi.
“This is a national tragedy and the nation is in mourning. These are people who have committed their lives to serve and protect the nation but the nation has lost them. Let us come together through prayer in this difficult time,” said Mutharika.
Mutharika who went to pay his last respects to his fallen troops said memories of the fallen soldiers will always remain in the memories of every Malawian.
He subsequently called upon all Malawians to observe all safety requirements when travelling on the roads of Malawi.
“Let us not over speed. Let us make sure that the vehicles we are travelling in are roadworthy in all aspects from brakes to tyres because many of the accidents that are happening on our roads are due to unsafe vehicles,” said Mutharika in his brief speech.
Lieutenant General Clement Namangale who is acting defense force commander in his remarks said the MDF has never in recent times experienced such a devastating lost.
He said the lost soldiers who were given a minute silence in honor of their memories were set to add value to the defense force.
“When we conduct our trainings, you cannot compare them to any other professions. Recruits have to endure extensive trainings in order to put on a uniform.
“That is why in the MDF, we highly value a soldier. We were happy to be adding on to the numbers of soldiers we have but before they even started their work; we have lost them together with very experienced instructors.
“The Last Post (trumpet) that was played here is played in battle during evening times as the sun is setting. But we have played it here to show that a dark shadow has fallen over us,” said Namamgale.
He subsequently said the MDF would observe three days of mourning during which all of their flags will be at half mast.
Several government departments including the ministry of health and the department of disaster management (DODMA) have come together to assist the MDF in this trying time.
The office of the President and cabinet has helped the families of the deceased with K300 000 each while DODMA which is under vice president Chilima has provided each family with K200 000. Several other departments have made monitory contributions.
Among Cabinet Ministers and other senior officials in attendance at the ceremony were minister of information and communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, Home Affairs minister, Cecilia Chazama, minister of Agriculture and water development Joseph Mwanamvekha.
Pictures Credit: Stanley Makuti, Malawi News Agency (Mana) Photojournalist