It is a unique February 2013 dead night on the Abidjan-Agboville Road in Cote d’ Ivoire. Although traffic is low, little visibility cannot help matters.
A minibus hits a stationary truck near the Malawi Battalion (Malbat) United Nations Camp 14km from Abidjan business district area on the Abidjan-Agboville Road.
A sentry on the observation post adjacent to the road notices the accident and hears passengers whimpering in pain. He sees no immediate rescuers coming and immediately reports the incident to the duty officer.
In quick reaction a Malbat medical team descends on the accident spot. It classifies patients according to their injuries, while attending to those with minor injuries; those that need urgent help are referred to a referral hospital.
Though this is not one of their core tasks in the West African nation, the deed by Malawians on a United Nations Operation in Cote d’ Ivoire (UNOCI) saves several lives.
Come day light, patrol jeeps carrying troops, going out and coming inside the camp is the order of the day. Patrols cover the UNOCI sector in Abidjan, observing the security situation and collecting information on the same. Information is later passed on to the UNOCI higher command.
Not only are patrol jeeps a common feature coming out of the camp gate. A water tanker, a darling to many especially in Anyama District, comes out of the gate frequently heading towards communities that do not have access to potable water. Distributing potable water purified by Malbat engineers.
Civilians seeking minor medical attention also come in and go out of the camp, always leaving with bright faces. They have a free prescription they could have paid for elsewhere.
It is in the zeal that these tasks are done that makes a Malawian stand out among many in the mission area.
“I like the way Malawians work, they work hard. They are committed and they keep on fulfilling their tasks.
“They are professionally committed, never mingle personal entertainment with work. This is my first time to work with a UN mission but I hear this from everyone,” says Konan Honore, a translator under UNOCI, who adds that he found his interaction with Malawians enriching.
With the political turmoil disappeared, disarmament, disengagement and integration process had to take ground, Malbat were also tasked to make sure the process went on smoothly in Abidjan.
Malbat troops also took part in overseeing local and municipal elections in various parts of Abidjan. They also had to provide security to the UNOCI funded mass graves exhumation where no half measure performance was entertained.
And like God’s teachings say love one another, the chaplaincy section also identified vulnerable children who were helped in various ways, one of them being a child with physical disabilities that rendered her unable to walk.
At the end of the mission the chaplaincy section took all church offerings and bought her a refrigerator as well as paid for electricity bills her parents failed to settle for some time.
Now the Malbat is relocating to the Democratic Republic of Congo but the demand for Malawi troops to deploy in other African countries with conflicts such as Mali is still high, a reflection that they are regarded highly on the continent.
“The impeccable record of Malawi Defence Force in peacekeeping operations has seen us coming to far away countries like this and very soon we will be deploying in DRC,” says Lt Gen John Msonthi Jnr, MDF deputy commander responsible for operations and training.
He further stated that offers for Malawi soldiers to go to Mali, demonstrates the high demand for MDF services on the African continent.n
The author is a Malawi Defence Force officer at Parachute Battalion in Salima.