Zambia faces aid cuts over Biti deportation

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WASHINGTON DC – The United States has summoned envoys from Zimbabwe and Zambia to express disquiet over the treatment of Tendai Biti, a senior leader of the MDC Alliance.

Biti sought political asylum in Zambia on Wednesday but was turned down after Zambia’s foreign minister said it was not “meritorious”.

Zambia’s Information Minister Dora Siliya explained on Twitter: “The government denied Tendai Biti asylum because there is no breakdown of law and order in Zimbabwe. Citizens’ lives not under threat, reason (there is) no influx of asylum seekers. SADC said elections were free and fair. Post-election violence suspects (six died) to appear before courts and is internal matter.”

Revelations that Biti, who was later taken to court by Zimbabwean police before his release on bail, had been deported in spite of a High Court order drew widespread condemnation.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) blasted the Zambian government, warning that forcibly returning asylum seekers to their country of origin was a violation of international law.

“Refoulment or forcibly returning refugees and asylum seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law,” UNHCR said in a statement.

The United States took stronger action, summoning the ambassador of both countries and warning Zambia it was at risk of losing aid.

 

“The government is deeply concerned that Zambia chose to hand over Mr Biti to the Zimbabwean authorities, and in the face of a reported Zambian court order blocking his expulsion from Zambia. We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government,” the State Department said in a statement.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert added: “The government of Zimbabwe is now responsible for Tendai Biti’s safety and welfare. We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr. Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected, consistent with the rule of law and Zimbabwe’s international obligations and commitments.”

WASHINGTON DC – The United States has summoned envoys from Zimbabwe and Zambia to express disquiet over the treatment of Tendai Biti, a senior leader of the MDC Alliance.

Biti sought political asylum in Zambia on Wednesday but was turned down after Zambia’s foreign minister said it was not “meritorious”.

Zambia’s Information Minister Dora Siliya explained on Twitter: “The government denied Tendai Biti asylum because there is no breakdown of law and order in Zimbabwe. Citizens’ lives not under threat, reason (there is) no influx of asylum seekers. SADC said elections were free and fair. Post-election violence suspects (six died) to appear before courts and is internal matter.”

Revelations that Biti, who was later taken to court by Zimbabwean police before his release on bail, had been deported in spite of a High Court order drew widespread condemnation.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) blasted the Zambian government, warning that forcibly returning asylum seekers to their country of origin was a violation of international law.

“Refoulment or forcibly returning refugees and asylum seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law,” UNHCR said in a statement.

The United States took stronger action, summoning the ambassador of both countries and warning Zambia it was at risk of losing aid.

“The government is deeply concerned that Zambia chose to hand over Mr Biti to the Zimbabwean authorities, and in the face of a reported Zambian court order blocking his expulsion from Zambia. We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government,” the State Department said in a statement.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert added: “The government of Zimbabwe is now responsible for Tendai Biti’s safety and welfare. We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr. Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected, consistent with the rule of law and Zimbabwe’s international obligations and commitments.”

Zambia receives around $300 million under USAID focusing on six key areas such as health, HIV and AIDS, agriculture, climate vulnerability, education and improving democratic governance.

Biti was arrested and charged over protests targeting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which the MDC Alliance says rigged elections in favour of incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa is due to file his election petition with the Constitutional Court on Friday. He is challenging Mnangagwa’s victory and wants the court to declare him the winner after hearing evidence of vote manipulation by ZEC.

Biti was arrested and charged over protests targeting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which the MDC Alliance says rigged elections in favour of incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa is due to file his election petition with the Constitutional Court on Friday. He is challenging Mnangagwa’s victory and wants the court to declare him the winner after hearing evidence of vote manipulation by ZEC.-Zimlive

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