By Dan Newling
Britain is involved in a furious diplomatic row with Malawi after its foreign minister ordered the British High Commissioner to leave the country.
Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was given just 72 hours to leave the African country after he labelled its president Bingu wa Mutharika ‘autocratic’, ‘combative’ and ‘intolerant of criticism’.
Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was summoned to a meeting and given just 72 hours to leave the African country after he criticised its president Bingu wa Mutharika.
The President of Malawi Bingu Wa Mutharika
Dispute: Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, left, was given 72 hours to leave Malawi after labelling the president Bingu wa Mutharika ‘autocratic’ and ‘combative’
As a result of the comments’ publication, Mr Cochrane-Dyet was summoned to an emergency meeting with the country’s foreign minster on Monday afternoon.
He was severely rebuked for his remarks and then told he had just 72 hours to vacate the High Commission building and leave the country for good.
Yesterday (TUE), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) revealed Foreign Secretary William Hague’s 'strong concern' at Mr Cochrane-Dyet being declared 'persona non grata' in Malawi.
A spokesman for the FCO revealed that the Malawi’s London-based Charge d’ Affairs was himself summoned to the Foreign Office to discuss the matter yesterday.
At the meeting, Malawi’s representative was told of the severe consequences that expelling Mr Cochrane-Dyet would have for the impoverished nation, which relies heavily on UK aid.
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The FCO statement, released yesterday (TUE) read: 'The Acting Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Adams, summoned the Charge d’Affaires of Malawi to the Foreign Office this morning.
'He conveyed to her the Foreign Secretary’s strong concern at suggestions that the Government of Malawi is considering declaring the British High Commissioner, Mr Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, 'persona non grata'.
'Sir Geoffrey made clear to the Charge d’Affaires that such an action would be unacceptable.
'Mr Cochrane-Dyet is an able and effective High Commissioner, who retains the full confidence of the British Government.
'Sir Geoffrey added that if the Government of Malawi pursued such action there were likely to be consequences affecting the full range of issues in the bilateral relationship.
'He urged the Malawian authorities, through the Charge d’Affaires, not to proceed down such a road.”
Mr Cochrane-Dyet strongly criticised President Bingu wa Mutharika in a private diplomatic cable sent to his superiors in London from the Malawian capital Lilongwe last month.
The cable had somehow been leaked and extracts of it published in the The Weekend Nation newspaper last Saturday.
In the cable the diplomat claims that under President Bingu, Malawi - which receives 40 per cent of its annual budget in aid from foreign countries, most of it from Britain - is becoming increasingly repressive.
According to the newspaper, Mr Cochrane-Dyet wrote: 'President Mutharika is becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism.
'The governance situation continues to deteriorate in terms of media freedom, freedom of speech and minority rights.'
The Briton reveals that the government has been angered by foreign ambassadors’ support for opposition and civil rights groups, saying: 'Some ambassadors have been summoned by the Foreign Minister for a dressing down.
'Others (including me) have been summoned by the President’s brother for a gentler delivery of the same message: stop supporting civil society to destabilise the government.'
Mr Cochrane-Dyet reportedly speculated that the recent uprisings in the Middle East may have contributed towards government paranoia.
Britain, which is Malawi’s former colonial master, donated a total of £74 million in aid to Malawi during 2009/10.
Of this, £17 million was in direct aid and the rest made up of contributions towards charitable organizations and non government agencies working in the country.
The amount of direct aid has recently decreased by £3 million, partly in protest at the President’s decision to spent £9 million on a private jet for use solely by him.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1378582/British-diplomat-ordered-leave-Malawi-branding-president-autocratic-combative.html#ixzz1KhUXVkox
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Posted by MANUEL DE ARAÚJO at Wednesday, April 27, 2011