Malawi leader hails Britain amid diplomatic spat

22nd April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika on Friday hailed the British government for its "steadfast" support of the former colony, amid a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

In a statement for the birthday Thursday of Queen Elizabeth II, Mutharika said he hoped their diplomatic relationship would endure.

"The United Kingdom has remained steadfast in the support of Malawi. We hope that the diplomatic relationship between the two countries will continue to grow in the years to come," it said.

Malawi gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and London remains the biggest bilateral donor to the impoverished southern African nation, where half the 13 million citizens live below the poverty line and on less than a dollar a day.

Mutharika said their ties were not only "historical, but entrenched in good governance, transparency and accountability."

The row revolves around a leaked memo in which British high commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet Mutharika allegedly said the president was becoming "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism."

Malawi has said it is considering declaring the official "persona non grata".

The British envoy also said in the memo that the "governance situation continues to deteriorate in terms of media freedoms, freedom of speech and minority rights."

© 2011 AFP

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