A Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldier, who was part of the United Nations peace-keeping mission in Ivory Coast, has been sent back home on disciplinary grounds barely a month after being deployed to the troubled West African state.
Sources told The Weekend Times that the soldier, identified as Corporal Dan Banda, was sent back as punishment after he was involved in a brawl with locals during a drinking spree.
The sources said Banda was subsequently detained by local police.
But, while confirming that the soldier was indeed deported, MDF Deputy Spokesperson Captain Frank Kayanula said the reason for Banda's expulsion from the lucrative peace-keeping mission was "excessive drinking".
"Our reports on the incident issued by both the UN office in Ivory Coast and our own Malawi Defence Force police indicate that his crime was excessive drinking and not fighting. He drunk excessively and it was after working hours," he said.
Kayanula said Ivory Coast is still in a fragile state such that people are not supposed to move around without identification cards at night as that creates suspicion of being a trouble-maker.
"It would appear that apart from excessive drinking he was also moving around without an identification card, that is why he was held by the local police until his identity was established," he said.
The MDF publicist said UN code of conduct in such fragile states demands that foreign soldiers on peace-keeping missions should up¬hold the highest standards of discipline. He said MDF has a reputation of being one of the most disciplined companies of soldiers on inter¬national peace-keeping missions. He said that was why Banda was swiftly disciplined and demoted.
Banda, who belongs to the First Battalion of Malawi Rifles or 1MR at Cobbe Barracks in Zomba, has since been demoted from the rank of Corporal to Lance Corporal.
He was supposed to be deployed in Ivory Coast for half a year.
Peace-keeping missions are said to be lucrative for Malawian military and police officers. Most of those deployed to various trouble spots on the continent or beyond come back with seven-figure bank balances.