U.S. to Review Cooperation With Zambia After Zimbabwean Fracas

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. said it will review “certain aspects” of its cooperation with Zambia after the southern African nation denied asylum to senior Zimbabwean opposition leader, Tendai Biti.

Biti, who feared arrest after claiming Zimbabwe’s July 30 election was rigged, was detained as he crossed into Zambia on Wednesday. He was returned to face charges of public violence around the same time a Zambian court ordered he be granted an asylum hearing. The Zambian government said the order came after he was sent home, which Biti’s lawyer denies.

The U.S. “will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Friday in an emailed statement. She didn’t give further details.

Biti, 51, is among opposition leaders who questioned the outcome of last week’s presidential elections, in which the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front won a constitutional majority and its leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was elected president.

Zambian Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji rejected U.S. intervention in the country’s affairs.

‘Sovereign State’

“We are not in an era of slavery,” Malanji said in comments broadcast on Lusaka-based Hot FM. “We are a sovereign state and we make decisions according to what we perceive. We have not breached any international diplomatic procedures.”

Biti appeared in a court in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, on Thursday on charges of public violence and announcing allegedly illegal or fabricated election results. He was freed on $5,000 bail and awaits trial. His arrest at a northern border crossing drew criticism from the European Union, U.S., Canadian and Australian missions in Zimbabwe.

The U.S. provided about $241 million in aid to Zambia last year, according to the USAID website.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.