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Malawi Army

The Malawi Army had the mission to defend the country and to maintain order. Although one of the better trained and disciplined armies in the region, it was smaller and not as well equipped as those of neighboring states. It would be unable to defend Malawi in the unlikely event of a major incursion by Tanzania or Zimbabwe but was competent to deal with most other threats. The Malawi Army gained extensive experience in Mozambique and its performance indicated that it had profited from its experience. Although it demonstrated the ability to engage and defeat RENAMO forces attacking the Nacala line, it did not have sufficient numbers, equipment, or economic resources to permanently secure it.

The Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), although not directly engaging in activities against landlocked Malawi, caused major economic problems in the country by sabotaging the important Mozambique rail link leading from Malawi to the Indian Ocean ports of Beira and Nacala. Malawi had difficulty exporting its major cash crop (tobacco) and importing fertilizer and necessary consumer items, and had been flooded with up to 600,000 Mozambican war refugees.

In March 1987, the Malawi Army sent 800 troops to assist Mozambique's Army in protecting the Nacala railway from attacks by RENAMO. Despite The $136,000 per month cost of the operation and personal risk to the Malawi troops, the economic situation in Malawi made the opening of the Nacala imperative. By 1989, Malawi had secured the track along the 150-km corridor east to Malema, although work to rehabilitate the remainder of the line was on hold.

The commander of the armed forces stated that their intervention into Mozambique was economic; therefore, they were ordered to stay within a 5-km limit of the line and not to pursue RENAMO into the bush. The operation had limited success, yet RENAMO still managed to periodically dismantle small segments of the track and damage locomotives, rendering the route inoperable for short periods.

As result of the insurgency affecting Mozambique, the Malawi Army, fearing that it may face similar problems, included counterinsurgency operations in its training program. In September 1982, the Army conducted. the first in a series of field training exercises involving an insurgency scenario. There were indications that the CSR, MAFREMO, and LESOMA have received promises of Soviet, Cuban, and/or Libyan support, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) may have trained members of the CSR. Although there was very little support within the country for these insurgency organizations, the military prepared for the contingency.

On 13 May 2008, police arrested the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) party secretary general Kennedy Mwakwangwala, former Blantyre mayor John Chikakwiya, former inspector general of the Malawi Police Service Joseph Aironi, former Malawi Police commissioner Matthews Masoapyola, and former commander of the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) Joseph Chimbayo. They were subsequently charged with treason. Both Chimbayo and Aironi were removed in 2005 by Mutharika for perceived loyalty to Muluzi. In addition, three active-duty military generals - Brig. Marcel Chirwa, Director of Personnel, Brig. Cosgrove Mituka, Inspector General of the MDF, and Brig. Juvenalis Mtende, Commander of the Zomba Air Wing - were also detained for questioning.

Plan "A" was to convince the Speaker of the National Assembly to invoke Section 65, giving MCP and UDF a two-third supermajority that would allow them to impeach President Mutharika. Once deposed, a new government with Muluzi as president and Tembo as vice-president would be installed. If this plan could not be realized by May 16, then the recipients were to move on to "Plan B" -- a military-led takeover of the government.

Plan "B" called for six groups, Group 1 to secure the New State House in Lilongwe, Group 2 to secure Sanjika Palace (the presidential residence in Blantyre), Group 3 to take over Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Television Malawi (TVM) in Blantyre, and Group 4 to do the same in Lilongwe. Group 5 was charged with arresting current MDF commander Marko Chiziko and Group 6 with arresting cabinet ministers. These actions were to take place on May 16.

4 x infantry battalions
1 x parachute battalion
1 x administrative unit
Malawi has at least three well-commanded, disciplined, and well-equipped battalions. The Malawi Army is made up of two rifle regiments and one parachute regiment, though some sources report as many as four infantry battalions. The military is organized under the purview of the Ministry of Defence. State Department IMET training documentation from FY 2003 indicated the United States trained army personnel from the 2nd Battalion, Malawi Rifles, 3rd Battalion, Malawi Rifles (Moyale Barracks), the Parachute Battalion, and the Combat Support Battalion.

The major units of the Malawi Army as of 1990 were three light infantry battalions. Each battalion had an authorized strength of 1,150 men, with a large headquarters company and five rifle companies. In addition to the three light infantry battalions, there was an air wing (Air Force) and a support battalion. The support battalion consisted of a 106-mm artillery battery, a reconnaissance troop, an air defense detachment, and anaval detachment (Navy). A paratrooper wing and airborne school were formed in 1981 with instructors trained in West Germany and the United States. In addition, the Malawi Army Commander was interested in forming a special forces company, a combat engineer company, and one additional 105-mm artillery battery.

In June 1983, a six-man detachment from the Paratrooper Wing went to West Germany to participate in training by the US Army Special Forces Detachment in Europe. It was hoped that this organization would greatly enhance the Malawi Army's ability to meet potential threats to the government. Past South African military assistance had been on a case-by-case basis only, as with the training associated with the delivery of the Eland armored cars in 1985. There was also a military college that was probably one of the finest, most efficiently organized and operated military traing schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. The college conducted recruit training, numerous enlisted courses, officer cadet courses, platoon leaders course, company commanders' course, communication courses, NCO courses, and a staff officers' course. The military college has responsibility for training not only the Army but also the militia.

Major items in the Malawi Army inventory in 1990 were mainly of British origin and included 22 Fox armored cars, 14 Ferret Mk-II scout cars, 4 Eland armored cars, 9/105-mm guns, at least 8 81-mm mortars, and 52 7.62-mm light macbineguns. The acquisition of the 105-mm light guns gave the Malawi Army itsfirst artillery capability. Additional equipment included a mortar-locating radar and 14 Blowpipe SAM launchers with 80 usable missiles as of 1986.

Civilian and military personnel from Malawi Defense Force, the U.S. and other partner nations have gathered in Lilongwe, Malawi to participate in the U.S. Africa Command-sponsored Exercise Southern Accord 14, July 14-31, 2014. Comprising approximately 200 participants from ten countries, SA14 combines academics and team building into a command post exercise built around a fictional deployment in support of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

"The purpose of this exercise is to sustain tactical proficiency, improve multi-echelon operations and to develop multi-national logistical capabilities in an austere, forward environment," said Brig. Gen. Peter L. Corey, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Africa. "Our desired endstate of this exercise is to help one another create a safe, stable and secure Africa -- which in turn, supports common U.S. and Southern African security interests."

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Page last modified: 09-05-2017 16:34:57 ZULU