By Emmanuel Muwamba – Britain on Tuesday issued a stern warning to Malawi warning that expelling its High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyte is unacceptable and has consequences.
The warning follows the summoning of the High Commissioner by the Malawi Government on Monday over a leaked telegram from the British High Commission in Lilongwe which among others labelled President Bingu wa Mutharika as dictator.
The Malawi Government in a swift reaction gave the High Commissioner 72 hours deportation order on Monday afternoon.
But the British Government on Tuesday warned of consequences if the High Commissioner was expelled.
The diplomatic row could put in jeopardy the K23.8 grants to Malawi.
A statement from the Foreign Office in the London made available to the media on Tuesday said: “The Acting Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Adams, summoned the [Flossie Gomile Chidyaonga] 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.”
The statement further reads that 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.
Meanwhile, opposition political parties in Malawi have condemned government for the deporation order saying it was a least Malawi could afford to do in the circusmtances.
The former ruling party, the United Democratic Front (UDF) said it learnt with great shock and concern that the Malawi Government of His Excellency President Bingu wa Mutharika has deported the British High Commissioner following a leaked memo summarizing the worrying signs of Malawi’s governance record where the leadership is by day assuming greater dictatorial tendencies and intolerance to voice of reason.
“The UDF does not believe that any amount of criticism against Malawi as a sovereign state should at any time warrant deportation of members of foreign missions in Lilongwe.
“The party believes that even where there are differences of opinion between the Malawi Government and any other government, the guiding principle must be ‘contact and dialogue’ and a quiet two-track diplomacy as a preferred method,” reads the statement.
The party said it wonders if the decision to deport the High Commissioner was properly thought through given the fact that Malawi is a member of the Commonwealth being a former colony of Britain.
“This action will probably be the first in the history of the Commonwealth where a diplomat from one Commonwealth country is deported by another member nation. The UDF also wonders if the Government of Malawi took into consideration the amount of aid in form of balance of payments, infrastructure development, humanitarian and institutional capacity-building assistance and not forgotten the British Government’s support for the police reform and anti-corruption programmes that Britain renders to this country.
“The UDF wonders if our Government is aware that deporting diplomats can create a host of serious repercussions that can easily suffocate our development endeavours because of the humiliating effect that such actions may have on foreign governments.
“The UDF believes that Malawi must take cognizance of the long-standing relations that this country has with Western co-operating partners so much so that as a country, we must be the last to adopt a ‘not-caring’ attitude, particularly remembering that as politicians, our tenure is limited by the Constitution but Malawi will remain Malawi and dependent on donor support,” said the statement signed by secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala.