Expelled UK envoy says Malawi decision 'unacceptable'

29th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The British diplomat who was expelled from Malawi this week over a leaked memo said Friday the poor southern African country's decision was "unwarranted and unacceptable".

"It is unwarranted because I have worked so hard to be a friend of Malawi and promote the country's development," Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, the British high commissioner to Malawi for two years, said in a statement he read out to journalists in Lilongwe, the capital of the poor southern African country.

"This is a sad moment for all those who cherish the long, warm relationship between Malawi and Britain."

In his first public statement on the row, Cochrane-Dyet said he was an "able and effective diplomat who has behaved with integrity throughout his posting in Lilongwe and who retains the full confidence of the British government."

Cochrane-Dyet did not say when he plans to leave Malawi, a former British colony that gained independence in 1964.

Malawi declared Cochrane-Dyet "persona non grata" after a local newspaper published a leaked diplomatic cable in which he said Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika was becoming "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism".

The move prompted Britain to expel Malawi's acting high commissioner to London in retaliation.

Mutharika and his cabinet have remained mum on the spat.

"By expelling the British high commissioner, the government of Malawi is acting not only against me, but against Britain," Cochrane-Dyet said in his statement.

"This is not the way to treat an old friend who has given unstinting support to this country for decades," he added, using unusually emotional language for a diplomat.

"It's hardly surprising the British Government is now reviewing its wider relationship with Malawi.

"For a country that has experienced three decades of one party rule followed by just 17 years of democracy, it is all too easy to slide back into old habits."

Britain remains the biggest single donor to Malawi, where half the 13 million citizens live on less than a dollar a day.

But it slashed its aid by £3 million (3.4 million euros, $4.9 million) last year after expressing concern at the government's purchase of a $13.26 million jet for Mutharika.

© 2011 AFP

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