Some Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers currently on a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have expressed sadness over the decision by their employers to slash their monthly allowances by $200 per month.
The soldiers will now be getting an allowance of $900 per month down from $1,100.
The soldiers told Malawi News this week that an MDF delegation led by Major General Alick Bentley Mhone went to DRC to brief them about the allowance cut on January 16.
Traditionally, the soldiers go to DRC on a one-year mission and were pocketing a minimum of $13,200 for the whole year in allowances.
The cut would mean the soldiers would be earning about $10,800.
According to the soldiers, Mhone, who was accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Panthius Mdoka, Captain Ngomwa and Warrant Officer Class 1 Sally Mussa went to DRC bases at Boikene, Kasinga Kabasha and Sake where they briefed the troops about the slash.
“They told us that the allowance cut follows visits to other countries such as Tanzania and Zambia where they said the soldiers get an average of $900 per month.
“But what we are saying is that they visited wrong countries. Why not visit countries such as South Africa who also send troops here? The money was already on the lower side when we compare with our friends from other countries such as South Africa,” said one of the soldiers.
Another soldier said they would like President Peter Mutharika, who is Commander-in-Chief of MDF to intervene in the matter.
“When we asked them where they would go with the money deducted from us, they said they would use it for maintenance of vehicles among others. We are asking: Why should our money be used for maintenance of government vehicles?” he asked.
Mhone referred Malawi News to MDF Public Information Office when asked about the rationale behind the allowance cut.
MDF spokesperson Major Paul Chiphwanya said MDF instituted a board to look at the allowances of soldiers on foreign mission.
“The board toured a number of countries, including Tanzania and Zambia and came up with recommendations. The recommendations are not for public consumption,” Chiphwanya said.
Speaking in November last year during a fact-finding mission to Zambia, Mhone said MDF was pondering on having a peacekeeping policy that would, among others, indicate how much soldiers are supposed to be given as their allowance for peacekeeping operations of the United Nations (UN).
Mhone, who had led a local UN Peacekeeping Allowances Board, said the aim of the visits was to learn from other countries how the countries manage deployment issues of peacekeeping missions before adopting the policy.
“The major problem might have been that our troops were not very much aware of what was due to them, so by coming here, we want to learn and when we get back home, we are going to put proposals on the ground to be approved by management. We are going to communicate to all soldiers what they are going to be getting because there is no blueprint as at now,” he said.
Mhone also said the other problem being experienced is that the UN has linked troop allowance and equipment allowance; as such, it deducts the money to be given when Malawi’s equipment in the mission is not operational, which in turn leads to a deduction from the money being given to the troops.
“UN has linked troop allowance and equipment allowance together, for example, if a vehicle carries 20 soldiers and that day the vehicle is down, they say the soldiers who were supposed to be ferried by the vehicle do not have to be paid because they have not worked. The challenge is the soldiers say it is our responsibility to maintain the equipment and our responsibility to pay all the dues,’’ he said.
Currently, Malawi sends both soldiers and own equipment to the mission.
The UN pays the government troop allowance and equipment allowance depending on the condition of the equipment.
The mission established that in Zambia the soldiers are paid their allowances within two months after completion of their tour of duty where as in Malawi the soldiers are paid the money in phases and depending on the availability of the finances as paid by the UN.
In Zambia, the government gets 50 percent of the troop allowance and the remaining 50 percent is given to the troop.
Malawi has deployed 850 soldiers to DRC.