Malawi Expels UK Envoy Over Criticism Of Leadership

The move defied warnings from the British Foreign Office and will strain ties between Malawi and its former colonial ruler, a major aid donor to the poor country, which faces a freeze in foreign assistance over its hostility to homosexuals and a media crackdown.

British envoy Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was given a formal letter of expulsion on Tuesday night, government spokesman Vuwa Kaunda told Reuters.

“Government has decided to expel high commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet because the tone in the leaked cable was not diplomatic … government has lost confidence in him,” he said.

In London, the Foreign Office said it had nothing to add to an April 19 statement which stated that if Malawi pursued such action “there were likely to be consequences affecting the full range of issues in the bilateral relationship”.

Malawi’s Weekend Nation newspaper published excerpts of what it said was a March 2011 British diplomatic cable which said President Bingu wa Mutharika was “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

Diplomatic sources at the British mission confirmed the authenticity of the cable.

Mutharika has been heavily criticised by rights groups for trying to suppress free speech.

Malawi’s government is heavily dependent on foreign aid, with donor funding normally accounting for more than 40 percent of official receipts. Reuters