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Peter Mutharika honours war veterans

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President Peter Mutharika on Sunday led thousands of Malawians in honouring the country’s soldiers who fought in the two world wars.

The main ceremony to mark the Remembrance Day took place at the Lilongwe War Memorial Tower in Area 18 and was attended by different dignitaries including diplomats, senior government officials, politicians from both sides and members of the clergy.

Apart from Mutharika, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Commander Griffin Supuni-Phiri, Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for Operations, Rodney Jose, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Esther Mcheka Chilenje and Supreme Court Judge Edward Twea laid wreaths at the tower.

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Others included Chairman of the Commonwealth Ex-Service League of Malawi Major General Baxton Namwali (retired), a war veteran and a serving soldier, Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa and diplomats.

MDF Spokesperson Captain Paul Chiphwanya — who moderated the proceedings — said Malawi, then called Nyasaland, was heavily involved in the World War I with some 19,000 soldiers serving in the King’s African Rifles (KAR).

He added that the First Battalion of KAR was successful in defending a Kenyan town of Moyale where a hundred soldiers from Nyasaland held out against 3,000 Italians.

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“The fierce battle that Nyasaland troops fought at Moyale prompted the authorities to honour them by naming the barracks in Mzuzu after this Kenyan town,” Chiphwanya said.

Remembrance Day, also known as Poppy Day, is a memorial day observed in many other countries across the world. It is celebrated on 11 November every year.

According to Chiphwanya, 21 Malawi war veterans are living in different MDF stations while others — whose numbers are not available — might be staying in their respective communities.

At a similar ceremony in Mzuzu, the government came under fire from opposition politicians for what they described as “lack of commitment” to erect a memorial tower in the city for the war veterans.

The memorial service in Mzuzu is conducted at a place named War Cenotaph, which has a stone erected where wreaths are laid.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Regional Chairperson for North-North Region, Kenzie Msukwa, who represented party’s leader, Lazarus Chakwera — the Leader of Opposition in Parliament — said the stone being used as a commemorative pillar gives no reflection of the adversity the war veterans faced and the sacrifices they made.

“It is high time government erected a real memorial tower here. This stone has been here for years but it does not reflect the honour the veteran soldiers deserve.

“The other three cities, Blantyre, Zomba and Lilongwe, have befitting war monuments but the stone here does not reflect any honour at all,” Msukwa said.

Government spokesperson, Malison Ndau, who is also Minister of Information, admitted that it does not make sense that Mzuzu should remain without a tower.

“Plans are at advanced stage for Mzuzu to have a memorial tower. It does not make sense that Mzuzu should not have a war veterans’ tower,” said Ndau who could not say when it would be erected.

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