Zambia's new leader says he won't visit Malawi until he gets an apology for being deported from the neighboring country when he was an opposition chief in 2007, a very public signal that he wants a change in regional relations.
In a nationally televised meeting Saturday with an envoy from Malawi, President Michael Sata _ who has already shaken up politics at home since winning elections last month _ turned down an invitation from Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika to attend a regional summit in Malawi later this month.
In 2007, Sata had gone to Malawi to meet with a Malawian opposition leader. He was stopped at the airport by immigration officials, then driven 300 miles (500 kilometers) to be dumped at the Zambia-Malawi border.
He told Mutharika's envoy Saturday: "Your government has not bothered to apologize and if your government has never bothered to apologize and tell me what happened ... on that basis I find it extremely difficult to go to Malawi."
"I thought when you were coming here, you were bringing a revocation order and an apology from your government," he told David Bandawe, Mutharika's special envoy. Bandawe made no response.
African leaders often have been criticized for acting like members of a club, protecting one another's interest instead of championing democracy and rule of law.
Malawi's Mutharika, in power since 2004, is accused by his citizens of becoming increasingly autocratic and intolerant of criticism. Anti-government demonstrations swept Malawi in July amid worsening economic conditions and complaints about Mutharika. At least 19 people were killed by police trying to put down protests that degenerated into looting.
In Zambia, in just weeks in office, Sata has replaced the country's police chief, top anti-corruption official, central bank governor, state utility CEO and scores of lower-ranking public servants. Sata portrays many of the changes as part of a campaign against graft, but some Zambians worry he is punishing his political enemies.
Sata also caused some concern in the business community when he called for copper sales be suspended while a review of the sector was undertaken. The government later reversed that decision, saying it would be too disruptive to halt sales while new mining guidelines were devised.
A boom in global copper prices has spurred growth in copper-rich Zambia.
Sata lost three presidential polls before his victory in September ended two decades of rule by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy party.