Britain tells Malawi aid not tied to gays

British Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell has said UK budgetary support  and its development aid to Malawi  is not attached to conditions of allowing homosexuality in the country.

Mitchell said at a news conference  at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Thursday after having an audience with Malawi President Joyce Banda.

He pointed the issue to do with minority rights –  including gays and lesbians – have been exaggerated in the media at times.

“The emphasis has been exaggerated, in Britain it took us hundreds years to achieve these minority rights.,” said Mitchell.

“ I also believe Malawi is going through the same track, our aid is not tied to specific rights, the support we have outlined is not attached to any conditions to do with minority rights,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell: No gay link to aid

He said the British government has four main principles over its aid and two of them are to make sure the money is spent in the right way and its results are achieved.

“I am accountable in the British parliament on taxpayers money and we want this money to be used in the right way for the people of Malawi the other thing is to do with human rights issues not just minority rights, as I have said you have a long way as it took us hundreds of years to be where we are.” Mitchell said.

The top British official said his visit to Malawi “signals a new era of UK-Malawi relations.”

Mitchell said he has “substantive discussions” with President Banda and her team.

During the briefing President Banda also revealed that the British government has appointed a new High Commissioner and the two countries will exchange their diplomats after the parliamentary approval of Bernard Sande to be Malawi’s High Commissioner to Britain.

“I would like to announce that during our discussions Right Honourable Mitchell revealed to me that his government has already appointed a High Commissioner to Malawi and he will be coming very soon. This is also after the approval of Mr Bernard Sande who will represent Malawi in his country so the two countries will exchange the diplomats soon” Banda said.

Mitchell  visit follows a diplomatic spat last year during the tenure of late president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Relations between the two countries grew strained when WikiLeaks published a diplomatic cable of the British ambassador accusing Mutharika of “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

Among the laws drawing international ire were clampdowns on press freedoms and a gay ban. Banda has said she supports the repeal of Malawi’s “bad” laws and so far the Injunction law and media ban law have been repealed.

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