Mulanje villagers beat up Malawi army soldier over trees: Battling for life at Queens Hospital
A Malawi Defense Force (MDF) soldier lies in agony with open wounds at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre after he was brutally beaten up by irate villagers on Thursday in Mulanje.
Mulanje District Hospital officials confirmed they referred a soldier to Queen Elizabeth Hospital with life threatening open wounds and multiple body cuts.
Sources at Mulanje Police station said the villagers became angry after the soldiers manning Mulanje Forest reserve, shot one of the villagers who enchroached the forest reserve.
“The villagers mobilised themselves and confronted the soldiers, the military men run away but the irate villagers managed to catch one of them and severely beat him up,” said Nyasa Times source.
The police source said one soldier is missing.
Unconfirmed reports say the enchroacher who was shot by the soldiers died of his wounds.
Muloza police officers rushed to the mountain to calm the situation.
Officials from MDF and Forestry Department refused to comment on the matter, tossing the issue to each other.
The Department of Forestry is now using soldiers to guard forest reserves, a move criticised by civil rights groups who accuse the soldiers of harrassing ordinary people.
The military crackdown on charcoal has been especially hard on the poorest, among both producers and consumers.
Experts said the charcoal trade was difficult to rein in because politicians were also involved in the business.
“It’s not something that we are hiding,” said Werani Chilenga, the chairman of the National Assembly’s committee on natural resources and climate change. “Politicians are at the forefront.”
Chilenga, who worked as a government meteorological engineer for three decades before entering politics, is quoted in the New York Times saying the military’s deployment was not a long-term solution to the charcoal problem and its effects on the country’s water and power supplies.
“We know what needs to be done: Government has to come up with good policies on population control, alternative energy and agriculture,” he said.