Britain freezes aid to Zambia

18 September 2018 - 17:26 By AFP
Zambia's president Edgar Lungu shakes hands with China's president Xi Jinping before their bilateral meeting in Beijing, China, earlier this month.
Zambia's president Edgar Lungu shakes hands with China's president Xi Jinping before their bilateral meeting in Beijing, China, earlier this month.
Image: Nicolas Asfouri/Pool

Britain has suspended aid payments to Zambia over concerns of alleged fraud and corruption by the government of president Edgar Lungu, who has faced graft allegations from within his own party.

Britain's High Commissioner to Lusaka Fergus Cochrane-Dyet confirmed the suspension of funding in a tweet posted late on Monday.

"Correct that UK frozen all bilateral funding to Zambian government in light of potential concerns until audit results known," Cochrane-Dyet wrote in a tweet. "UK Aid takes zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption."

Britain's development ministry says on its website it earmarked £48m (R936m) in aid for Zambia in the 2017-18 fiscal year. The amount that has been suspended is unknown.

Correct that UK frozen all bilateral funding to Zambian government in light of potential concerns until audit results known
High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet

Former foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba, who resigned his position in January this year alleging "swelling" official corruption, said Britain's decision proved there was a problem.

"I feel vindicated. The very first time I resigned and when I spoke people felt that I was speaking politics," said Kalaba, who is still a lawmaker in Lungu's governing party.

"But now the foreign community is saying what I said when I resigned. What is sad is that the innocent souls will suffer."

Last week, the London-based Africa Confidential publication said misuse of donor funds had pushed Finland and Sweden to freeze aid, while Britain was demanding the return of $4m (R59m) that was allegedly embezzled.

Lungu's spokesperson Amos Chanda said that Britain had told Zambia it would suspend support to the country's development and education ministries. 

"It is an exaggeration to say they have frozen bilateral aid," he said. "They did not officially communicate but we summoned the High Commissioner, who confirmed."

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