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Britain and Finland have frozen funding to Zambia on suspicion that the four million dollars they channeled into a social welfare scheme may have been misused, the Zambian presidency said on Tuesday.
The social cash transfer scheme is a donor-supported programme under which the government relays money to vulnerable households in rural areas in Africa’s No. 2 copper producer.
The British High Commissioner to Zambia, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, said in a tweet that Britain had frozen all bilateral funding until audit results are known.
“(Britain) takes a zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption,” he said.
Officials from Finland did not immediately comment.
Presidential spokesperson, Amos Chanda, said president Edgar Lungu ordered an inquiry three months ago into possible “misuse” of the aid funds between 2012 and now, and a number of suspects were due to be prosecuted.
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“They notified us about the suspension of aid to the social cash transfer scheme but all other forms of bilateral aid are ongoing,” Chanda said.
“Following the investigations, the secretary to the cabinet actually presented a report to the president on Friday.”
Lee Habasonda, a political analyst at the University of Zambia, said the withdrawal of the funding would hurt the poor in the southern African country at a time when Lusaka is struggling to manage its debt.
“We hope that the government will take quick remedial measures to ensure that the funding is resumed,” Habasonda said.
Zambia’s external debt rose to 9.37 billion dollars by the end of June from 8.7 billion dollars in December, the finance ministry said in August, a week after the International Monetary Fund raised concerns over its high borrowing.
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Abiy Ahmed wins the 2019 Nobel Peace Award
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for immersly efforts to end two decades of hostility with longtime enemy Eritrea.
Though Africa’s youngest leader still faces big challenges, he has in under two years in power begun political and economic reforms that promise a better life for many in impoverished Ethiopia and restored ties with Eritrea that had been frozen since a 1998-2000 border war.
“We are proud as a nation,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, hailing a “collective win for all Ethiopians, and a call to strengthen our resolve in making Ethiopia – the new horizon of hope – a prosperous nation for all.”
It said the prize was meant to recognize “all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.”
The Nobel Committee’s decision appeared designed to encourage the peace process, echoing the 1994 peace prize shared by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the 1993 award for moves towards reconciliation in South Africa, said Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
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