Young Pioneers (Malawi Congress Party) (Malawi)

Country: Malawi
Details of Formation: The Young Pioneers were established in 1963 and became the paramilitary youth wing of the Malawi Congress Party (Wikipedia). A news sources reports that in 1964 they became a legally approved paramilitary organisation. The date formed refers to the date of Malawi independence and the beginning of Banda’s rule.
Details of Termination: The Young Pioneers were disarmed violently in 1993 in the military Operation “Bwezani” or “Give Back”, which aimed at seizing the arms the Young Pioneers had refused to give up (Wikipedia). Many members fled to Renamo-controlled Mozambique. The legal status of the Young Pioneers (MCP) was abolished in the beginning of 1994. After President Banda lost the presidential election, the linkage to government authority ceased to exist.
Purpose: At the beginning, the Young Pioneers were to function as a national youth service program with a development agenda. Later its main purpose shifted towards consolidating and maintaining president Banda’s one-party state dictatorship, performing tasks such as espionage and oppression of dissidents. They were active as informants on possible critics in their workplaces (Wikipedia).
Organisation: The Young Pioneers’ Commander in Chief was President Banda. They were the main security agents of Malawi (Wikipedia). Their paramilitary structure was approved by law in 1964.
Weapons and Training: In 1989, the Young Pioneers had training bases in each district of the country. The training was structured around the Kibbutz model of Israel and they received support from Israel Army instructors. The members were heavily armed (Wikipedia). A news source reports that they received military aid and training from South Africa.
Size: In 1992, the Young Pioneers had 6,000 armed members and additionally 45,000 supporters that served as informants (Wikipedia).
Reason for Membership: Members were followers of the “positive side” of Kamuzuism which saw President Banda as the fount of all wisdom always knowing what was best for the nation. (Wikipedia).
Treatment of Civilians: At the beginning, the Young Pioneers did not involve in political excesses. Over time they became a de-facto third security force that increasingly forced civilians to participate in their actions and demanded payments for Banda (Wikipedia). The Young Pioneers violently opposed pro-democracy activists by beating them and attacking their homes and property. They also hijacked a vehicle of Reverend Kaleso (Amnesty 1993). In another occasion, they shot more than 40 protesters. The government used violent rhetoric against opposition, which inspired Young Pioneers in their violent actions (Amnesty 1992).
Other Information: The Young Pioneers were a paramilitary political militia with powers to arrest (Amnesty 1993).
References: Amnesty International. 1992. “Malawi. March-July 1992: mass arrests of suspected government opponents.” AI Index AFR 36/37/92. September.

Amnesty International. 1993. “Malawi. Preserving the one-party state – human rights violations and the referendum.” AI Index AFR 36/22/93. 18 May.

Wikipedia. “Malawi Young Pioneers”.