Zambia risks losing aid from the US government following the forced deportation of Zimbabwean opposition politician Tendai Biti.
Zambia receives around $US300 million under USAID focusing on six key areas such as health, HIV and AIDS, agriculture, climate vulnerability, education and improving democratic governance.
In a strongly worded statement, the US State Department says the US government will be discussing this matter with President Edgar Lungu and reviewing certain aspects of its cooperation with the Zambian government.
US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the decision to deport Mr Biti is particularly disheartening given the courage that Zambia showed in sheltering thousands of Zimbabwean freedom fighters from Rhodesian aggression in the days of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle.
Ms Nauert disclosed that the United States has summoned in Washington the ambassadors of both Zimbabwe and Zambia to register its gravest concerns.
“We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government,” Ms. Nauert said.
She said the United States 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.
Ms. Nauert said the US government is also gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists.
She said there should be no role for violence, intimidation, or harassment in the new Zimbabwe.
“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,” she said.
She added, “While Zimbabwe had a historic opportunity to move the country toward a brighter future for all its citizens, an electoral process marred by violence that does not respect constitutional rights and procedures is not a step toward that future.”