Malawi and British diplomat spat erupts
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Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011, 00:50
Blantyre: Malawi expelled Britain's top diplomat to the southern African nation on Wednesday for criticising the president, sparking a tit-for-tat reprisal from London and threats of further action.

A diplomatic spat between the countries became full blown Wednesday when Malawi declared British high commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet persona non grata, leading Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague to order acting high commissioner of Malawi Flossie Gomile Chidyaonga to pack her bags.

"I am sorry to pass on the news that the Malawi Government has officially informed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office today (Tuesday) that Fergus (Cochrane-Dyet) is being declared persona non grata," British high commission vice-consul Lindsay McConaghy wrote in a memo, a copy of which was seen by a news agency.

The row revolves around a leaked cable in which Cochrane-Dyet said Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika was becoming "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism."

In the diplomatic cable, published by the weekly Nation earlier this month, the high commissioner also said that "the governance situation continues to deteriorate in terms of media freedom, freedom of speech and minority rights."

McConaghy's memo said that "there will be serious consequences for Malawi" for its treatment of the high commissioner, the equivalent of ambassador in Commonwealth countries.

London retaliated within hours, with Hague saying that at his direction the Foreign Office had told Chidyaonga "that she and her dependants must leave the UK at the earliest opportunity."


First Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011, 00:50

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