Zambia’s new president, Michael Sata, is refusing to attend a regional summit in neighbouring Malawi unless Lilongwe apologises for calling him a prohibited immigrant during a 2006 visit when he was the opposition leader.
Zambia will instead be represented by Vice President Guy Scott and the ministers of commerce and foreign relations.
Sata, 74, who was sworn in as president two weeks ago after an upset poll victory in Africa’s biggest copper producer, said on Saturday he would skip next week’s summit of regional economic bloc Comesa.
“You are fully aware of the dilemma I am in with your government,” Sata told Malawi’s high commissioner to Zambia David Bandawe after he delivered an letter inviting the Zambian leader to the summit.
“I went to Malawi to visit an opposition leader and your government bundled me into a (Toyota) Land Cruiser and said I am a prohibited immigrant. Your government has not been courageous enough to apologise and therefore I find it extremely difficult to go to Malawi.”
Sata said he was disappointed he could not go. The trip would have been his first abroad as Zambia’s leader. Aside from diplomats, he has not met with any leaders from the continent.
Zambia historically has good relations with its eastern neighbour.
Bandawe, said he would deliver Sata’s request for an apology to President Bingu wa Mutharika.