Is Malawi -DR Congo K60 billion fuel deal in exchange for soldiers?

…K6.7 billion fuel received, money goes awol

…Malawi soldiers to fight DR Congo war- Congolese Minister

…Govt fails to get a parliamentary approval

The National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) received 2.5 million litres worth K6.7 billion of fuel from the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) but there is no contract and NOCMA cannot say where the money has gone, raising questions of contents of a secret deal between the two countries.

Blantyre City South MP Sameer Suleman has asked President Chakwera “to be honest and tell Malawians the truth” about the contingent of soldiers being sent to Congo and the whereabouts of the money that has been realised from DR Congo fuel deal as confirmed by NOCMA.

Blantyre City South MP Sameer Suleman has asked President Chakwera “to be honest and tell Malawians the truth

Appearing before the Cluster 1 Budget Committee meeting on Friday, 1 March 2024, NOCMA’s management was caught off guard and confirmed that it has received and sold 2.5 million litres of fuel and that 30 million litres were supposed to be delivered. But that is all they know.

“There is no paperwork or contract for it,” confessed the NOCMA boss after Parliamentarians asked the team to confirm about the DR Congo fuel deal signed by President Lazarus Chakwera when he dashed to Congo around January 19 this year.

MDF Soldiers start fighting with DR Congo soldiers

DR Congo media reports published on January 20 this year reveal that Malawi’s Defence Minister Harry Mkandawire and his Congolese counterpart Jean-Pierre Bemba who is also Deputy Prime Minister agreed that the MDF and Congo forces will be fighting side by side, a development that Malawians have not been told.

Malawi’s Defence Minister Harry Mkandawire and his Congolese counterpart Jean-Pierre Bemba

“Malawian troops have pledged to fight alongside Congolese Forces to help restore peace to the troubled region,” the digital based Fatshimetrie, says of the meeting between the two.

The meeting between Malawi and DRC Security top brass

Since President Chakwera return from DR Congo and the secretive deal worth K67 billion-kwacha, MDF soldiers are being flown in batches of 50 by Congo military planes into Lishulu on the border with Rwanda where the M23 Rebels have their base.

“We are setting camps now, but we went straight into fighting against the rebels. There is no insurance, and nobody is saying anything. We are nowhere near SADC nor UN contingents,” an MDF soldier speaking through a relation said.

Officially, Malawi sent soldiers to Goma for peacekeeping missions under the United Nations. Still, the operations were later shifted to North Kivu in a town known as Beni where a Force Intervention Brigade was set up to rebel the attacks from various rebel groups.

on a special mission

“In Ituli, you have different rebel groups, so the FIB was set to be proactive. But M23 is a political and well-organised group. Lushulu is at the border with Rwanda, and when you chase them, they end up in Rwanda,” said a retired military officer who was part of the UN contingent.

M23 rebels are supported by Rwanda intensify fighting near Sake, Goma

The MDF troops have landed into heavy fighting as Rwandan backed rebels have now continued their onslaught trying to take over the town of Sake, which is just 27km from Goma, raising the prospects of total involvement of MDF in foreign war.

M23 rebels are said to be supported by Rwandan government

The United States asked Rwanda on 19 February 2024 to withdraw its military personnel, a statement that received a backlash from Rwanda accusing the USA of peddling lies.

U.S. State Department condemned the worsening violence and called on M23 to cease hostilities immediately and withdraw from its current positions around Sake and Goma. It called on Rwanda to immediately withdraw all its military personnel from the DRC and remove its surface-to-air missile systems,” the media reported in late February 2024.

Rwanda Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the US statement distorts the reality, and that Rwanda reserves the right to self-defence against the DRC’s actions in the area, which it claims threaten Rwandan security.

Kigali also expressed “deep concern” over what it terms the abandonment of the regional peace processes” and said that the international community is indifferent to DRC’s “dramatic military build-up”.

The military build up now seems to include Malawi whose mission is illegal according to the constitution as Parliament has not approved it.

Chakwera, MDF need parliament approval to deploy soldiers

The MDF seems to have escaped with foreign deployments without getting parliamentary approval. Still, this illegal position contradicts the supreme law of the land, according to a military legal expert and members of parliament demanding that the government should seek parliamentary consent.

“Section 160 (d) of the Malawi constitution is apparent. Neither the President nor the MDF has the power to send troops outside Malawi without parliamentary approval. The secretive nature of this and the coming in of fuel is what is raising questions,” said our source, saying the move puts Malawi soldiers at an unfair advantage as their conditions are unknown.

MDF Army Commander General Phiri and Commander-In-Chief HE. Chakwera; they all need parliaments approval

Section 160 (d) of the constitution reads that the MDF “shall perform such other duties outside the territory of Malawi as may be required of them by any treaty entered into by Malawi in accordance with the prescriptions of international law, BUT NO PART of the Defence Force of Malawi shall be employed outside the territory of the Republic for more than ninety days WITHOUT approval of the National Assembly.”

Suleman said it was surprising that the Malawi Government was perpetuating the breaking of the law and hiding the deployment of soldiers that does not seem to be part of United Nations or SADC.

“Let them bring to Parliament, let them say the conditions our soldiers will be having, including insurance and compensation in case of injury or death. We are sending them to fight in a frontline of a foreign war, let us be told as per the dictates of the law,” said the fearless parliamentarian.

The UN mission is winding up, and SADC will take over.

After 25 years, the world’s largest United Nations peacekeeping mission started to hand over its first military base to DR Congo security forces last week. The handover comes as violence soars in the conflict-riddled region.

Slowly winding up their duties and handing over to SADC Security mission

The final contingent of peacekeepers from Malawi also left within the week. They will be the last MDF soldiers who have represented Malawi at the mission with dedication and duty and have always been praised for their discipline and hard work.

The UN transferred responsibility and equipment at its base in Kamanyola in South Kivu province to Congo’s national police as part of a phased drawdown agreed upon between the government and the U.N. last year.

The mission is expected to close 14 bases and facilities in South Kivu by June, at which point the U.N. Security Council will decide on a timeline for the rest of the withdrawal.

The drawdown comes amid soaring violence in recent weeks as one of the most active rebel groups, M23, launched attacks against a community considered the last line of defence before the region’s largest city of Goma.

The U.N. has been operating in the country for 25 years, with its primary mission being the protection of civilians. But frustrated Congolese say that no one is protecting them from rebel attacks, leading to protests about the U.N. mission and others that have at times turned deadly.

Last year, the U.N. Security Council extended the peacekeeping mandate until Dec. 20 and decided that its troop ceiling until June 30 should be 13,500 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, and 2,001 international police. It ordered a reduction from July to 11,500 military personnel, 600 military observers and staff officers and 1,713 international police.

Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania- who formed the UN Force Intervention Brigade will continue the role with SADC. However, organisation websites state that some DR Congo military personnel will join, removing its neutrality.

The SADC Mission in DR Congo (SAMIDRC) first deployed on 15 December 2023, but Malawi has yet to send an entire brigade as they are still setting up logistics and don’t have financing for the mission.

“They are using Congolese planes because SADC has no money to charter. They ask and rely on the UN for assistance,” explained a source who said only SADC and UN missions were known, not the fuel deal.

The brigade of 850 men and women is still in Salima, while South Africa has announced it will deploy 2900 soldiers into DR Congo.

No contract or accounting for fuel DR Congo fuel deal

The first official confirmation that DR Congo is giving fuel to Malawi has come from NOCMA, which does not show in its reports that it received the K6.7 billion fuel, raising fears that the money could be channelled to individuals.

“We now know there is a 30 million litres deal. But what are the terms? What is DR Congo getting in return? Where and who is getting the money? Government cannot use public structures to get money and keep quite that avenue for corruption and theft,” charged Suleman who said he will continue to ask.

We now know there is a 30 million litres deal. But what are the terms?

UDF Machinga East MP Esther Jolobala who raise the questions in parliament and committee refused to comment saying “I have nothing to say, its on record in parliament what I said and what they responded.”

Another source claimed the fuel was being lifted and dropped by the famous “Chief” and that the funds would be used for campaign funding, as the money was not in NOCMA books.

We have sent questions to NOCMA and the Ministry of Defence and will continue to update the story from our sources in DR Congo and Malawi.

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