USA angry with Zambian government for deporting asylum-seeking Tendai Biti

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The United States government says it is disappointed with the Zambian government for choosing to hand over Zimbabwean asylum seekers led by opposition figure Tendai Biti to Zimbabwean authorities in the face of a court order blocking their expulsion from Zambia.

USA Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert says her government will meet Zambian leaders to review certain aspects of cooperation with Zambia.

“The United States government is gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists. There should be no role for violence, intimidation, or harassment in the new Zimbabwe.”

“We are also deeply concerned that Zambia chose to hand over former Minister of Finance Tendai Biti to the Zimbabwean authorities, and in the face of a reported Zambian court order blocking his expulsion from Zambia.”

The US government says what’s most disappointing about Zambia’s actions is that the country has historically been a haven for asylum seekers in the region.

“This decision 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. We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government.”

The US government appealed to Zimbabwean authorities to guarantee Biti’s safety and physical wellbeing.

“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. In Washington, the United States has convoked the ambassadors of both Zimbabwe and Zambia to register our gravest concerns.

“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.”

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