Fergus Cochrane Dyet, the outgoing British High Commissioner to Zambia, on Tuesday, said the Zambian government should prove that it is taking serious measures to fight corruption in the country in order to get back donor aid and investments that have been withheld due to graft concerns, reported Reuters.
In September last year, Britain, Finland, Ireland, and Sweden had withheld around $34 million in aid to Zambia’s social welfare and education sectors because of concern over the alleged misuse of aid money.
Cochrane-Dyet, whose term finishes at the end of August, told reporters at a media briefing in Lusaka that Britain was concerned about the rampant corruption in the southern African nation.
“As I depart with a sense of unease about the direction this country is taking, let me be frank about the UK’s concerns (about corruption),” said Cochrane-Dyet.
“Corruption kills as surely as any gun, depriving Zambians of life-saving government resources, water-preserving forest, intentionally renowned wildlife and jobs that foreign companies would otherwise provide,” he added.
The British diplomat said the Zambian government should examine how its debt soared to unsustainable levels after creditors, including Britain, wrote off the country’s debt in 2005. Zambia’s external debt rose to $10.05 billion at the end of 2018, compared with $8.74 billion a year earlier.
Zambians have grown increasingly disappointed with President Edgar Lungu’s government, which has faced several graft scandals since he came to power in 2015. Evidence of financial mismanagement has included the alleged state purchase of 42 firetrucks said to cost $1 million (900,000 euros) each.
Cochrane-Dyet urged the government to declare Zambia’s hunger situation an emergency in order to get international humanitarian assistance. According to official figures, around 2.5 million Zambians have been hit by hunger following a drought that affected the farming season.
Zambia’s information ministry responded to Cochrane-Dyet’s address, claiming the government would never “underplay the seriousness of corruption”.