New army commander brings discontentment

By Nyasa Times Reporter

Discontentment has ensued in the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) following the appointment of a ‘junior’ officer to head the military.

President Bingu wa Mutharika appointed Henry Odillo, who was chief of staff to be the country’s Army commander. He was also elevated from the rank of Brigadier General to full General.

The appointment has drawn resentment from some officers because Mutharika ignored some senior officers in the rank who could have made it.

“Odillo was chief of staff. In government we could say he was like Principal Secretary and not necessarily third in command,” a military source said.

Odillo: New military chief

The source said Army commanders are appointed from the rank of Lieutenant General.

“Some soldiers are not happy that the president settled for somebody below by-passing seniors. It is tricky but we just have to follow orders,” the source said.

The source said Mutharika choose Odillo amid anti government protests firing the deputy Army commander Lieutenant General Ernest Ntonya  in the process.

The Army commander Marko Chidziko was relinquished of his duties but immediately appointed national security adviser.

Chiziko who handed over the Sword of Command to his successor at Kamuzu Barracks parade square in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe said his exit from the MDF was normal retirement.

He also asked soldiers to remain apolitical in their duties.

“Remember people in the military do not take part in politics because it compromises their professionalism and impartiality.”

“Soldier don’t Have to involve themselves in politics because they serve the nation. We must accept everybody as your master. Your masters are actually civilians and these are the people who give you orders,” he said.

Chiziko has been commander of the Malawi Defence Force since 2004 when Mutharika assumed the country’s presidency.

Odillo has been Malawi’s military attaché at the High Commission in London.

However, despite rising above seniors, Nyasa Times learnt that Odillo is an “outstanding soldier, an experienced officer and is endowed with all of the qualities needed to lead the Malawi Defence Force.”

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