Zambia says it has better human rights record than UK

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The Independent Online
THE ZAMBIAN President, Frederick Chiluba, lashed out yesterday at British and other Western donors for using aid to pressure Zambia to improve its human rights and declared that the country's record was better than Britain's.

Echoing the tone of his neighbour, the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, a visibly angry Mr Chiluba was reacting to speculation at the recent Commonwealth summit in Durban that Zambia could face disciplinary procedures because of its poor record on human rights, democracy and governance.

He remarked with concern that developed Western nations did not like to be criticised over anything and that whoever criticised them was either denied aid or branded as undemocratic. "Is it because we are black and poor?" Mr Chiluba said on live national television. "If we condemn them over anything, they say they will deny us aid. Is that democracy?"

He also said that Britain had no moral right to condemn Zambia's human rights or democratic record because its own was worse and its democracy had not yet evolved to the same high level as Zambia's. "We have only been in existence for 35 years," Mr Chiluba said. "They, on the other hand, have been around for over 1,500 years, with no written constitution. We know people who have died on British gallows. What can they tell us about human rights?"

Mr Chiluba said that the Commonwealth had no right to expel Zambia. He also referred to a report by the British Labour Party think-tank, the Foreign Policy Centre, which was circulated at the Durban meeting. The report recommended disciplinary action be taken against Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, for human rights abuses.

President Chiluba said that he had been assured by the acting British envoy to Zambia, Paul Nessling, that the views expressed in the report did not represent those of the British Government itself.

President Mugabe last month accused the Blair Government of hiring "gay gangsters" after Peter Tatchell and other OutRage! militants attempted to carry out a citizen's arrest of the Zimbabwean Ppresident while he was on an official visit to London.