MHRC must probe Malawi army soldiers torture at Viphya Plantation – YAS

Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) must move with haste and institute a probe into alleged private company sponsored torture and gross abuse of human rights which has continued unabated since 2015 at the 53,000-hectare man-made Viphya forest plantation in northern Malawi.

Viphya plantation

Anecdotal evidence, several sources and a company official have all confirmed the development by fingering the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) as the sole perpetrator courtesy of the largesse and freebees of Raiply Malawi Limited.

“There is no justification for the government to indulge into sexual assaults, violence, robberies, torture and brutal killings of its own citizens in the pretext of protecting the environment. We are of the view that no level of senseless violence will resolve the challenges facing our forests today,” Executive Director Youth and Society Charles Kajoloweka told Nyasa Times.

He then implored the MHRC to hold MDF accountable or exonerate it if evidence on the ground points the other way.

Sources said Raiply Malawi Limited, a subsidiary of a foreign owned timber processing companyheadquartered in Kenya, is still providing both material and financial support to the MDF to secure its 20,000-hectare concessionaire to ward off illegal lumberjacks.

“The question we have is: Is MDF on private hire by Raiply to guard its concession area which is reported to be under incursion by some unscrupulous Lumberjack? The government should make public the terms of reference on MDF’s involvement in the Viphya Plantation Forest,” says Kajoloweka.

In August 2015, the Malawi government found a better use of its largely ‘idle’ Soldiers.

It tasked the MDF to salvage the remnants of the 53,000-hectare man-made Plantation by driving out illegal Lumberjacks who also owed the cash strapped government about $1.2 million in unpaid fees.

President of the Timber Millers Cooperative Union Paul Nthambazale has repeatedly complained publicly that the MDF is treating his membership like dogs and not citizens of Malawi.

“What I know is that after Raiply Malawi Limited failed to steal timber from our plots, they hired the army to harass us. The thing is Raiply does know the boundary where they have to stop harvesting their timber,” he told NyasaTimes.

Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources Chairperson WeraniChilengaalso backed the government’s move to put in the MDF saying the will also assist it to recover what it is owed.

Company sources told NyasaTimes that Raiply is doling out millions in form of fuel for army trucks and food for MDF service men and women.

Raiply Chief Executive Officer Thomas Oommen could not be reached for comment as his phone repeatedly said he was out of reached.

However, several media reports which NyasaTimes accessed, have quoted him as saying that the deployment of the MDF was not his company’s responsibility.

On several occasions, NyasaTimes has seen Soldiers being ferried in Raiply vehicles on dispatch for duties. The company’s vehicles are conspicuous because they are emblazoned with the company’s names in red or white paint.

Since the deployment of the MDF into the Viphya Plantation, a former shadow of itself with less 5 per cent cover, the MDF has mainly concentrated in patrolling the Raiply area and reports of grave systematic human abuse have emerged since the MDF is known for implementing instant justice.

“Soldiers… are primarily trained to fight wars and not to deal with civilian indiscretions unless there are special circumstances demanding such overhanded action,” said a prominent Human Rights Activist this week, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals from the MDF.

MDF spokesperson Captain Paul Chiphwanya did not respond in inquiries for comment or clarification for more than one week.

In his state of the nation address President Peter Mutharika reiterated that effective and efficient management of natural resources and the environment is key to the country’s socioeconomic development adding that he is concerned with the colossal damage to the environment whose economic costs have been massive.

“In 2015/2016 financial year, Government will continue to implement programmes that would promote efficient and effective management of natural resources and environment,” Mutharika said.

The government then publicly warned that in collaboration with its security apparatus it would carry out an extensive exercise to curtail the illegal selling, possession and trafficking of charcoal, wood and other forest produce within Malawi.

It also sternly warned that it would not be held liable for any claims arising from damages, losses or injuries that would be occasioned through the implementation of the exercise.

In 2015/16 fiscal year, the government also nullified a 15-year concession agreement with the Timber Millers Cooperative Union (TMCU), which represents the Lumberjacks, saying it had breached the agreement, which came into force in 2012, by wiping out the 10,000 hectares allotted to them within two years.

The government argued that TMCU never paid royalties, did not replant, prune, weed or make fire breaks.

TMCU is tried in vain to get a Court order to stop the government from implementing its decision saying there were issues to be solved before they vacate from the plantation.

TMCU Nthambazale blamed the Malawi government for favoring foreign concessionaires at the expense of locals.

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Baba Alishababu
Guest

Nkhalango zonse zikhala za asilikali basi.Muzadulenso mitengo muzaona za Boko Haramu basi.Ma civiliani si anthu omawanyengelera ali ngati ana.Akabweza moto apunthidwe mwakathithi.

Maj juku 1
Guest

Am very much surprised to let the army guard the forest. Where r the police? That’s the police duty in conjunction with forest department. Here in Zambia soldiers r only called upon when the police fail to do their job like when there were ritual killing in zingalume area.
Am a major in Zambia ( commando unit) am speaking from experience

Kukaya
Guest

Failed Politicians will always employ lazy solutions to complicated problems . MDF has no single grain of capacity to deal with the complicated Viphya forest crisis . Will this MDF fight the forest fires too ? We are a Big Joke .

Mwenecho
Guest

What is MDF really protecting in Chikangawa after the DPP and PP shared the plantation among themselves ???? How much is RAIPLY paying government for this private hire of the MDF ?

Jack
Guest
Politicians are smart . They simply choose which institution / idiot to abuse and dump. Have you forgotten how politicians used the Army to steal public resources ? They battered the Presidential Jet for ghost boats, and Joyce Banda pocketed the money . They looted billions in the name of millitary equipment which was never procured and today some former senior Army officers are facing trial. Thus what politicians can do to professionals. Here is the whole Army risking is fairy good image simply to cover up for a failed government system and a corrupt Raiply Company which survives on… Read more »
Mulumbe
Guest

In fact , these soldiers are very corrupt. Senior Army officers are using juniors to asurp money in the forest. Raiply CEO, Thomas Omen does not know that those stealing logs in his plantation are now being aided by the corrupt MDF officers . Seniors are involved . As long as I have 40 000 to bribe the Army on unlucky day, I will cut and get what I want overnight .

Patriot
Guest

No need to investigate the MDF,those people who are unnecessarily cutting down trees in Chikangawa and all other forests should be dealt with accordingly.

Mulumbe
Guest

Where was MDF when DPP Ministers and Mulli Family had invaded the plantation and shared amongst themselves ? The whole Viphya forest was shared among politicians . Where was MDF. The Army has been brought in to cover up for a failed and corrupt DPP government. I agree, MDF is on private hire by RAIPLY limited . After all, the other side of the plantation is already finished. What are they protecting apart from the private Raiply ?

Felton Kabula
Guest
The Chikangawa forest need to be protected.And so far so good. Malawi defence force is doing a very recommendable job in that forest. Bravo MDF keep it up .Do not be discouraged by the so called human rights. Protecting the forest using whatever means is pure human rights and thats what MDF is doing. More fire MDF A luta Continua..!
Helpless Help
Guest

but why do these soldiers go in villages, collecting firewood, charcoal bag and timber from peoples homes? is this protecting forests indeed? search phalombe and mulanje….

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