Zambia: over my dead body, says Chiluba; The battlelines have been drawn between a former president facing corruption charges and a government backed by a former colonial power. Austin Mbewe reports.

Author:Mbewe, Austin
Position:Frederick Chiluba

The corruption trial of the former Zambian president, Frederick Chiluba, continues to twist and turn as a bitter confrontation pitching him against the governments of Zambia and Britain looms large on the horizon. The Zambian government has now allowed the British High Court to sit in and hear evidence for a case in which Zambia's attorney general has sued Chiluba and 17 others ranging from individuals to firms based in Zambia, South Africa, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Britain. The civil claim is to recover some [pounds sterling]13m allegedly misappropriated between 1996 and 2002.


An incensed Chiluba has accused the government in general, and his former deputy, now president, Levy Mwanawasa in particular, of compromising national sovereignty and undermining the integrity of the country's judiciary by allowing a foreign court to sit in Zambian territory. Mwanawasa, backed by the British, says Chiluba should submit himself to the court as it is in his own interest to defend himself. Speaking to Zambians in New York after attending the recent UN Summit, Mwanawasa said: "The bottom line is that the British court has been asked to come to Zambia in the interest of natural justice and for the benefit of Chiluba. If Chiluba is innocent, then he has nothing to fear. He should actually be grateful that I have made this facility available to him." But Chiluba fired a salvo, accusing Mwanawasa of being "a willing pawn used by many evil forces". He added: "I will not submit myself to foreign jurisdictions whether sitting abroad or in Zambia. The London High Court is not an international court and its jurisdiction is limited to England and Wales. This court has no jurisdiction over Zambian matters and its citizens." He pointed out that Zambia has had independent courts for 41 years and he would only cooperate and submit himself to these national courts. "It does not make political, legal or constitutional sense," he said, "for the government to send the attorney general all the way to London, hire a British judge [Peter Smith], hire the brother of the British prime minister [William Blair] as barrister, seek British aid to pick up the tabs, and come back to Zambia, lease premises for this...

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