August 27, 2010

Banda tells off diplomats pushing for regime change

Zambian President Rupiah Banda has accused some western diplomats and donors of pushing for a regime change and told them to “pack and go”. This is the second time in barely two months that there has been a feud between the 73-year-old president and western donors, who contribute a substantial amount of funds to various sectors in Zambia. It has raised fears that some donor countries might further withdraw aid to the southern African country in protest.

Several western donors have accused the Banda administration of lacking seriousness in the fight against corruption and frozen funding to the health and road construction sectors after revelations of graft in the two fields.
This followed the acquittal of former president Frederick Chiluba – a Banda ally – on corruption charges in 2009. This week, the government refused to appeal against a Zambian court’s rejection of a 2007 judgment in a British court that found Mr Chiluba and his close aides guilty of the theft of public funds amounting to $46 million during his rule between 1991 and 2001.

“This is not a banana republic; it doesn’t belong to anybody” said President Banda before leaving for his homeland of Chipata – about 500km east of Lusaka. “If somebody is fed up with us, they should just pack their bags and go where they come from. We are an independent state and I think that they should give us a chance to follow the laws which they left behind.” He warned foreigners to stop interfering in Zambia’s affairs.
President Banda said some Zambians should be ashamed for openly being “agents” of foreign countries. He also dismissed the diplomats and other foreign donors’ accusation that he and his administration were not keen to fight corruption. “Of course you know we are fighting against corruption. There are a lot of people in court; many of our generals are in court, we have never interfered with that. Why should just one case become a major issue?” he asked. “They (diplomats) know we have an election next year, so they are sticking their noses into our business to try and influence the election; that is colonialism.” (Daily Nation, Nairobi)

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