Malawi sends battalion for UN peacekeeping assignment in Cote d'Ivoire

Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - Malawi has dispatched a contingent of 850 soldiers on a United Nations peacekeeping mission to Cote d'Ivoire, according to the commander of the Malawi Defence Forces, General Marko Chiziko.

Speaking at a send-off ceremony for the troops in the capital, Lilongwe, Tuesday, Chiziko said the soldiers - specialists in ground combat - had undergone peacekeeping training by the American, British and Canadian armies.

"We are ready for our assignment in Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Defence Force, told the troops that their Ivorian mission would not be easy.

"The country where you're going to, Cote d’Ivoire, is a very complex situation," he said. "You'll not always know who the enemy really is: they're all Ivoirians, speaking the same language, dressing the same way and eating the same food."

Mutharika, who - as African Union Chairman - flew to Abidjan last February to press for a peaceful settlement in the stand-off between self-styled President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Quattara, who is widely believed to have won the disputed 28 November run-off polls, described the crisis in the west African country as "a war among brothers and sisters, amongst cousins and uncles".

"This is where the challenge of professionalism will become great," he said.

Gbagbo was arrested Monday by Quattara forces, backed by French and United Nation troops. But analysts fear that pro-Gbagbo militia may regroup to retaliate.

Chiziko said another Malawi battalion of 600 soldiers would join the peacekeeping initiative later in the year.

The Malawi Army, that has seen no external or serious internal aggression since independence from British colonialists in 1964, has participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the troubled Sudanese western region of Darfur, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia and the former Serbian enclave of Kosovo.
-0- PANA RT/VAO 12April2011

12 avril 2011 14:15:30

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