Britain refuses to give ground in Malawi spat

12th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain told Malawi on Wednesday it will not resume normal diplomatic relations until its former colony accepts responsibility for expelling Britain's ambassador, officials said.

In talks with his Malawian counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague also made clear that a suspension in budgetary aid would continue until Malawi tackled serious concerns over economic management, governance and human rights.

He met with Malawian Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika in London to discuss the strains in their relations caused by the expulsion of High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet in April for criticising the president.

Hague "made it clear that the current strain in diplomatic relations between the UK and Malawi was a direct consequence of the unwarranted and unjustified decision to expel the British high commissioner", a Foreign Office spokesman said.

"He rejected the recent suggestion by the president of Malawi that Mr. Cochrane-Dyet had not been expelled," the spokesman said.

"He emphasised to the Malawian delegation that any further discussions on normalising the bilateral relationship would be fruitless if the Malawian government did not accept responsibility for their decision to expel Mr Cochrane-Dyet."

Hague also expressed concerns about the economic crisis in the southern African country, saying it should engage fully with the IMF and other donors, and condemned attacks on opposition leaders and civil society activists.

Britain's indefinite suspension of general budget support to Malawi will remain "until the government of Malawi addresses our concerns over economic management, governance and human rights", the Foreign Office added.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika told AFP in July that he would not apologise for expelling Cochrane-Dyet, saying he had "insulted our country".

In a leaked diplomatic cable, the British ambassador accused Mutharika of "becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism". London responded to his expulsion by ejecting Malawi's envoy from Britain.

© 2011 AFP

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